Tissue specific expression of human fatty acid oxidation enzyme genes in late pregnancy

Lipids Health Dis. 2016 Nov 21;15(1):200. doi: 10.1186/s12944-016-0373-6.


Background: Abnormal fatty acid oxidation (FAO) is associated with maternal and fetal complications during pregnancy. The contribution of maternal and fetal tissues to FAO capacity during late pregnancy is important to understand the pathophysiology of pregnancy-associated complications. The aim of this study was to determine the expression levels of mitochondrial FAO enzymes in maternal and fetal tissues during late normal pregnancy.

Methods: We have measured by Real-time PCR the levels of long- and medium -chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (LCHAD and MCAD), two acyl-CoA dehydrogenases that catalyze the initial step in the mitochondrial FAO spiral.

Results: LCHAD and MCAD were expressed in maternal skeletal muscle, subcutaneous adipose tissue, placenta, and maternal and fetal blood cells. LCHAD gene expression was four- to 16-fold higher than MCAD gene expression in placenta, adipose tissue and skeletal muscle. In contrast, MCAD gene expression was ~5-fold higher in fetal blood than maternal blood (p = 0.02), whereas LCHAD gene expression was similar between fetal blood and maternal blood (p =0.91).

Conclusions: LCHAD and MCAD are differentially expressed in maternal and fetal tissues during normal late pregnancy, which may represent a metabolic adaptation in response to physiological maternal dyslipidemia during late pregnancy.

Keywords: Fatty acid metabolism; Long-chain acyl CoA dehydrogenase; Medium-chain acyl CoA dehydrogenase; Placenta.

MeSH terms

  • Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenases / genetics*
  • Adult
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fetus / enzymology*
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Organ Specificity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third


  • Fatty Acids
  • Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenases