Nutritional and Physiological Regulation of Water Transport in the Conceptus

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2022:1354:109-125. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-85686-1_6.


Water transport during pregnancy is essential for maintaining normal growth and development of conceptuses (embryo/fetus and associated membranes). Aquaporins (AQPs) are a family of small integral plasma membrane proteins that primarily transport water across the plasma membrane. At least 11 isoforms of AQPs (AQPs 1-9, 11, and 12) are differentially expressed in the mammalian placenta (amnion, allantois, and chorion), and organs (kidney, lung, brain, heart, and skin) of embryos/fetuses during prenatal development. Available evidence suggests that the presence of AQPs in the conceptus mediates water movement across the placenta to support the placentation, the homeostasis of amniotic and allantoic fluid volumes, as well as embryonic and fetal survival, growth and development. Abundances of AQPs in the conceptus can be modulated by nutritional status and physiological factors affecting the pregnant female. Here, we summarize the effects of maternal dietary factors (such as intakes of protein, arginine, lipids, all-trans retinoic acid, copper, zinc, and mercury) on the expression of AQPs in the conceptus. We also discuss the physiological changes in hormones (e.g., progesterone and estrogen), oxygen supply, nitric oxide, pH, and osmotic pressure associated with the regulation of fluid exchange between mother and fetus. These findings may help to improve the survival, growth, and development of embryo/fetus in livestock species and other mammals (including humans).

Keywords: Aquaporin; Conceptus; Fetal membrane; Nutrition; Placenta; Water transport.

MeSH terms

  • Amnion / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Aquaporins* / genetics
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Extraembryonic Membranes* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Water / metabolism


  • Aquaporins
  • Water