Changes in Placental Nutrient Transporter Protein Expression and Activity Across Gestation in Normal and Obese Women

Reprod Sci. 2020 Sep;27(9):1758-1769. doi: 10.1007/s43032-020-00173-y. Epub 2020 Feb 18.


Fetal growth and development are dependent on placental nutrient transport. The syncytiotrophoblast (ST) and its two polarized plasma membranes, the maternal-facing microvillous membrane (MVM) and fetal-facing basal membrane (BM), represent the primary barrier in the human placenta, controlling transplacental transfer of small solutes. MVM and BM nutrient transporter expression and activity are increased in obese mothers delivering large babies. However, placental nutrient transporter expression and activity in early gestation in normal and obese women are largely unknown. Placentas from normal BMI and obese women at 6-24 weeks of gestation, and term placentas from normal BMI women, were collected and ST plasma membranes isolated. The activity and protein expression of amino acid, glucose, and fatty acid transporters was assessed. No significant differences were observed in placental nutrient transporter protein expression between normal BMI and obese women in early pregnancy. In the MVM, system A amino acid activity (p = 0.02), SNAT2 (p < 0.0001), SNAT4 (p < 0.001), and GLUT1 (p = 0.01) protein expression were higher at term compared with early gestation. In contrast, MVM system L activity (p = 0.001), FATP4 (p = 0.03), and FATP6 (p = 0.009) protein expression were lower at term compared with early pregnancy. In the BM, there was no change in system L activity across gestation; however, BM FATP6 (p = 0.002) protein expression was lower at term compared with early pregnancy. These results suggest that placental transport of amino acids, glucose, and fatty acids are subjected to coordinated regulation across gestation to meet a fetal nutrient demand that changes with advancing pregnancy.

Keywords: Amino acid transporter; Fatty acid transporter; Glucose transporter; Maternal-fetal exchange; Obesity; Syncytiotrophoblast.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acid Transport System A / metabolism*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second / metabolism*
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism


  • Amino Acid Transport System A
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1