Maternal Lipid Metabolism Directs Fetal Liver Programming following Nutrient Stress

Cell Rep. 2019 Oct 29;29(5):1299-1310.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.09.053.


The extreme metabolic demands of pregnancy require coordinated metabolic adaptations between mother and fetus to balance fetal growth and maternal health with nutrient availability. To determine maternal and fetal contributions to metabolic flexibility during gestation, pregnant mice with genetic impairments in mitochondrial carbohydrate and/or lipid metabolism were subjected to nutrient deprivation. The maternal fasting response initiates a fetal liver transcriptional program marked by upregulation of lipid- and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (Pparα)-regulated genes. Impaired maternal lipid metabolism alters circulating lipid metabolite concentrations and enhances the fetal response to fasting, which is largely dependent on fetal Pparα. Maternal fasting also improves metabolic deficits in fetal carbohydrate metabolism by increasing the availability of alternative substrates. Impairment of both carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in pregnant dams further exacerbates the fetal liver transcriptional response to nutrient deprivation. Together, these data demonstrate a regulatory role for mitochondrial macronutrient metabolism in mediating maternal-fetal metabolic communication, particularly when nutrients are limited.

Keywords: Cpt2; PPARα; carnitine palmitoyltransferase 2; fatty acid oxidation; metabolism; mitochondria; mitochondrial pyruvate carrier. MPC; peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha; pregnancy; pyruvate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Fasting
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Development*
  • Fetus / metabolism
  • Fetus / physiopathology
  • Food Deprivation
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Metabolome
  • Metabolomics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / deficiency
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / metabolism
  • Nutrients*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • PPAR alpha / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Pyruvates / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Fatty Acids
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • PPAR alpha
  • Pyruvates