Insulin and the IGF system in the human placenta of normal and diabetic pregnancies

J Anat. 2009 Jul;215(1):60-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2008.01035.x. Epub 2009 May 7.


The insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system regulates fetal and placental growth and development. In maternal diabetes, components of this system including insulin, IGF1, IGF2 and various IGF-binding proteins are deregulated in the maternal or fetal circulation, or in the placenta. The placenta expresses considerable amounts of insulin and IGF1 receptors at distinct locations on both placental surfaces. This makes the insulin and the IGF1 receptor accessible to fetal and/or maternal insulin, IGF1 and IGF2. Unlike the receptor for IGF1, the insulin receptor undergoes a gestational change in expression site from the trophoblast at the beginning of pregnancy to the endothelium at term. Insulin and IGFs are implicated in the receptor-mediated regulation of placental growth and transport, trophoblast invasion and placental angiogenesis. The dysregulation of the growth factors and their receptors may be involved in placental and fetal changes observed in diabetes, i.e. enhanced placental and fetal growth, placental hypervascularization and higher levels of fetal plasma amino acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Placentation*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics / physiopathology*
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1 / metabolism
  • Somatomedins / physiology*


  • Insulin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins
  • Somatomedins
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1