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Placental glycogen stores and fetal growth: insights from genetic mouse models

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The placenta performs a range of crucial functions that support fetal growth during pregnancy, including facilitating the supply of nutrients and gases to the fetus, removal of waste products from the fetus, and the endocrine modulation of maternal physiology. The placenta also stores glucose in the form of glycogen, the function of which remains unknown. Aberrant placental glycogen storage in humans is associated with maternal diabetes during pregnancy and pre-eclampsia, thus linking placental glycogen storage and metabolism to pathological pregnancies. To understand the role of placental glycogen in normal and complicated pregnancies, we must turn to animal models. Over 40 targeted mutations in mice demonstrate defects in placental cells that store glycogen and suggest that placental glycogen represents a source of readily mobilised glucose required during periods of high fetal demand. However, direct functional evidence is currently lacking. Here, we evaluate these genetic mouse models with placental phenotypes that implicate glycogen trophoblast cell differentiation and function to illuminate the common molecular pathways that emerge and to better understand the relationship between placental glycogen and fetal growth. We highlight current limitations to exploring key questions regarding placental glycogen storage and metabolism and define how to experimentally overcome these constraints.



Animals, Disease Models, Animal, Female, Fetal Development, Glycogen, Mice, Mutation, Placenta, Placenta Diseases, Pregnancy

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BioScientifica Ltd.


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Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine
Centre for Trophoblast Research Next Generation Fellowship