A novel role of FoxO3a in the migration and invasion of trophoblast cells: from metabolic remodeling to transcriptional reprogramming

Mol Med. 2022 Aug 8;28(1):92. doi: 10.1186/s10020-022-00522-4.


Background: The forkhead box O3a protein (FoxO3a) has been reported to be involved in the migration and invasion of trophoblast, but its underlying mechanisms unknown. In this study, we aim to explore the transcriptional and metabolic regulations of FoxO3a on the migration and invasion of early placental development.

Methods: Lentiviral vectors were used to knock down the expression of FoxO3a of the HTR8/SVneo cells. Western blot, matrigel invasion assay, wound healing assay, seahorse, gas-chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) based metabolomics, fluxomics, and RNA-seq transcriptomics were performed.

Results: We found that FoxO3a depletion restrained the migration and invasion of HTR8/SVneo cells. Metabolomics, fluxomics, and seahorse demonstrated that FoxO3a knockdown resulted in a switch from aerobic to anaerobic respiration and increased utilization of aromatic amino acids and long-chain fatty acids from extracellular nutrients. Furthermore, our RNA-seq also demonstrated that the expression of COX-2 and MMP9 decreased after FoxO3a knockdown, and these two genes were closely associated with the migration/invasion progress of trophoblast cells.

Conclusions: Our results suggested novel biological roles of FoxO3a in early placental development. FoxO3a exerts an essential effect on trophoblast migration and invasion owing to the regulations of COX2, MMP9, aromatic amino acids, energy metabolism, and oxidative stress.

Keywords: Aromatic amino acid; Forkhead box O3a protein; Long-chain unsaturated fatty acid; Migration; Preeclampsia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Aromatic / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Female
  • Forkhead Box Protein O3 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / metabolism
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pre-Eclampsia* / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Trophoblasts* / metabolism


  • Amino Acids, Aromatic
  • Forkhead Box Protein O3
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9