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FASEB J. 2014 Mar;28(3):1294-305. doi: 10.1096/fj.13-242271. Epub 2013 Dec 13.

Down-regulation of placental mTOR, insulin/IGF-I signaling, and nutrient transporters in response to maternal nutrient restriction in the baboon.

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2Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Research, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, Mail Code 7836, 7703 Floyd Curl Dr., San Antonio, TX 78229-3900, USA.


The mechanisms by which maternal nutrient restriction (MNR) causes reduced fetal growth are poorly understood. We hypothesized that MNR inhibits placental mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) and insulin/IGF-I signaling, down-regulates placental nutrient transporters, and decreases fetal amino acid levels. Pregnant baboons were fed control (ad libitum, n=11) or an MNR diet (70% of controls, n=11) from gestational day (GD) 30. Placenta and umbilical blood were collected at GD 165. Western blot was used to determine the phosphorylation of proteins in the mTOR, insulin/IGF-I, ERK1/2, and GSK-3 signaling pathways in placental homogenates and expression of glucose transporter 1 (GLUT-1), taurine transporter (TAUT), sodium-dependent neutral amino acid transporter (SNAT), and large neutral amino acid transporter (LAT) isoforms in syncytiotrophoblast microvillous membranes (MVMs). MNR reduced fetal weights by 13%, lowered fetal plasma concentrations of essential amino acids, and decreased the phosphorylation of placental S6K, S6 ribosomal protein, 4E-BP1, IRS-1, Akt, ERK-1/2, and GSK-3. MVM protein expression of GLUT-1, TAUT, SNAT-2 and LAT-1/2 was reduced in MNR. This is the first study in primates exploring placental responses to maternal undernutrition. Inhibition of placental mTOR and insulin/IGF-I signaling resulting in down-regulation of placental nutrient transporters may link maternal undernutrition to restricted fetal growth.


fetal growth restriction; nonhuman primate; trophoblast

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