Interaction between dolutegravir and folate transporters and receptor in human and rodent placenta

EBioMedicine. 2022 Jan:75:103771. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103771. Epub 2021 Dec 23.


Background: Due to the critical role of folates in neurodevelopment, it is important to understand potential interactions between anti-HIV drugs used during pregnancy, and folate delivery pathways in the placenta. This study investigates the effect of dolutegravir (DTG) exposure on the functional expression of the reduced folate carrier (RFC), proton-coupled folate transporter (PCFT), and folate receptor-α (FRα) in the placenta.

Methods: Human placental cell lines, human placental explants, and a pregnant mouse model treated with clinically relevant concentrations of DTG were used. Gene and protein expression were assessed by qPCR, immunoblot and immunohistochemical assays. Folate transport function was measured by applying radioisotope-based transport assays.

Findings: In placental cells, clinically relevant DTG exposure for 3h or 6h was associated with a modest but significant reduction in the expression of RFC and PCFT both at the mRNA and protein levels, as well as decreased uptake of RFC and PCFT substrates [3H]-methotrexate and [3H]-folic acid, respectively. In pregnant mice, DTG administration was associated with an increase in both placental RFC and PCFT mRNA expression, accompanied by a decrease in placental FRα mRNA under folate-deficient dietary conditions.

Interpretation: These findings demonstrate a potential interaction between DTG and folate transport pathways in the placenta, particularly in vivo, under folate deficient conditions, potentially impacting folate delivery to the foetus in the context of DTG-based ART during pregnancy.

Funding: Funded by Ontario HIV Treatment Network, grant #506657; and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, award #R01HD104553.

Keywords: Dolutegravir; antiretroviral therapy; folate deficiency; folate transport; neural tube defects; placenta.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Folic Acid Transporters / metabolism
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Oxazines
  • Piperazines
  • Placenta* / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Pyridones
  • Rodentia*
  • United States


  • Folic Acid Transporters
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring
  • Oxazines
  • Piperazines
  • Pyridones
  • dolutegravir