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Nutr Rev. 2016 Jul;74(7):421-31. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw009. Epub 2016 May 31.

The placenta: the forgotten essential organ of iron transport.

Author information

1
C. Cao and M.D. Fleming are with the Department of Pathology, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
2
C. Cao and M.D. Fleming are with the Department of Pathology, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. mark.fleming@childrens.harvard.edu.

Abstract

Optimal iron nutrition in utero is essential for development of the fetus and helps establish birth iron stores adequate to sustain growth in early infancy. In species with hemochorial placentas, such as humans and rodents, iron in the maternal circulation is transferred to the fetus by directly contacting placental syncytiotrophoblasts. Early kinetic studies provided valuable data on the initial uptake of maternal transferrin, an iron-binding protein, by the placenta. However, the remaining steps of iron trafficking across syncytiotrophoblasts and through the fetal endothelium into the fetal blood remain poorly characterized. Over the last 20 years, identification of transmembrane iron transporters and the iron regulatory hormone hepcidin has greatly expanded the knowledge of cellular iron transport and its regulation by systemic iron status. In addition, emerging human and animal data demonstrating comprised fetal iron stores in severe maternal iron deficiency challenge the classic dogma of exclusive fetal control over the transfer process and indicate that maternal and local signals may play a role in regulating this process. This review compiles current data on the kinetic, molecular, and regulatory aspects of placental iron transport and considers new questions and knowledge gaps raised by these advances.

KEYWORDS:

fetal development; iron; metabolism; placenta; regulation.

PMID:
27261274
PMCID:
PMC5059819
DOI:
10.1093/nutrit/nuw009
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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