Fetal overgrowth is common in obese women and is associated with perinatal complications and increased risk for the child to develop metabolic syndrome later in life. Placental nutrient transport capacity has been reported to be increased in obese women giving birth to large infants, however the underlying mechanisms are not well established. Obesity in pregnancy is characterized by elevated maternal serum insulin and leptin, hormones that stimulate placental amino acid transporters in vitro. We hypothesized that maternal obesity activates placental insulin/IGF-I/mTOR and leptin signaling pathways. We tested this hypothesis in a mouse model of obesity in pregnancy that is associated with fetal overgrowth. C57BL/6J female mice were fed a control (C) or a high fat/high sugar (HF/HS) pelleted diet supplemented by ad libitum access to sucrose (20%) solution. Placentas were collected at embryonic day 18.5. Using Western blot analysis, placental mTOR activity was determined along with energy, inflammatory, leptin and insulin signaling pathways (upstream modulators of mTOR). Phosphorylation of S6 ribosomal protein (S-235/236), 4E-BP1 (T-37/46), IRS-1 (Y-608), Akt (T-308) and STAT-3 (Y-705) was increased in obese dams. In contrast, expression of placental caspase-1, IкBα, IL-1β and phosphorylated-JNK p46/54 T183/Y185 was unaltered. Fetal amino acid availability is a key determinant of fetal growth. We propose that activation of placental insulin/IGF-I/mTOR and leptin signaling pathways in obese mice stimulates placental amino acid transport and contributes to increased fetal growth.
- Copyright © 2015, American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology