Introduction: Placental function is of utmost importance to ensure proper fetal development in
utero. The transport of adequate macronutrients is among the placenta’s many roles, as the fetus relies on maternal supply of glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids. These macronutrients are carried to the fetus through transporters embedded within the placenta. The objective of this study was to examine the impact of i) an acute bout of exercise and ii) chronic exercise, which is strongly recommended throughout pregnancy, on changes in placenta nutrient transporter expression, and localization in vitro.
Methods: We compared the expression and localization of the transporters GLUT1, SNAT1, and FATP4 in BeWo cells treated with serum collected from pregnant (n=5) and non-pregnant (n=5) women, who underwent a moderate-intensity treadmill exercise session. In a second set of women, we evaluated the impact of chronic physical activity exposure, assessed through accelerometry, on protein expression and localization in term placenta from women categorized as active (n=10) vs. inactive (n=10) during pregnancy.
Results: While post-exercise serum did not change transporter expression, a statistically significant effect of pregnancy status (F = 21.0, p = 0.002) (pregnant vs. non-pregnant) was identified for GLUT1 expression in BeWo cells. GLUT1 protein expression was higher in cells treated with serum from pregnant compared to non-pregnant serum. For chronic exposure, protein expression for FATP4 was higher in term placenta of active versus non-active women (p= 0.02). Additionally, immunohistochemical staining of placental tissue sections of active compared to non-active pregnant women demonstrated more FATP4 staining.
Conclusion: These results show that engagement in guideline-recommended exercise during pregnancy increases expression of the placental fatty acid transporter, FATP4. Future work should aim to investigate the role of chronic exercise on fatty acid transport. Moreover, this study suggests that serum from pregnant women may contain factors or molecules that increase GLUT1 placental protein expression.
Nhung Vuong– Research Associate, University of Ottawa
Shuhiba Mohammad– PhD Student, University of Ottawa
Jayonta Bhattacharjee– Research Associate/Technician, University of Ottawa
Catherine Everest– Graduate Student, University of Ottawa
Macyn Leung– Undergraduate Student, University of Ottawa
Kristi Adamo– Supervisor, University of Ottawa