Epidemiologic studies identified the linkage between exposures to stresses, including the type and plane of nutrition in utero with development of disease in later life. Given the critical roles of the placenta in mediating transport of nutrients between the mother and fetus and regulation of maternal metabolism, recent attention has focused on the role of the placenta in mediating the effect of altered nutritional exposures on the development of disease in later life. In this chapter we describe the mechanisms of nutrient transport in the placenta, the influence of placental metabolism on this, and how placental energetics influence placental function in response to a variety of stressors. Further the recent "recognition" that the placenta itself has a sex which affects its function may begin to help elucidate the mechanisms underlying the well-known dimorphism in development of disease in adult life.
Keywords: Energy; Fetal programming; Nutrition; Placenta; Pregnancy.