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Obesogenic diet in pregnancy disrupts placental iron handling and ferroptosis and stress signalling in association with fetal growth alterations.

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Zaugg, Jonas 
Lopez-Tello, Jorge 
Musial, Barbara 
Vaughan, Owen R 
Fowden, Abigail L 


Obesity and gestational diabetes (GDM) impact fetal growth during pregnancy. Iron is an essential micronutrient needed for energy-intense feto-placental development, but if mis-handled can lead to oxidative stress and ferroptosis (iron-dependent cell death). In a mouse model showing maternal obesity and glucose intolerance, we investigated the association of materno-fetal iron handling and placental ferroptosis, oxidative damage and stress signalling activation with fetal growth. Female mice were fed a standard chow or high fat, high sugar (HFHS) diet during pregnancy and outcomes were measured at day (d)16 or d19 of pregnancy. In HFHS-fed mice, maternal hepcidin was reduced and iron status maintained (tissue iron levels) at both d16 and d19. However, fetal weight, placental iron transfer capacity, iron deposition, TFR1 expression and ERK2-mediated signalling were reduced and oxidative damage-related lipofuscin accumulation in the placenta was increased in HFHS-fed mice. At d19, whilst TFR1 remained decreased, fetal weight was normal and placental weight, iron content and iron transporter genes (Dmt1, Zip14, and Fpn1) were reduced in HFHS-fed mice. Furthermore, there was stress kinase activation (increased phosphorylated p38MAPK, total ERK and JNK) in the placenta from HFHS-fed mice at d19. In summary, a maternal HFHS diet during pregnancy impacts fetal growth trajectory in association with changes in placental iron handling, ferroptosis and stress signalling. Downregulation of placental iron transporters in HFHS mice may protect the fetus from excessive oxidative iron. These findings suggest a role for alterations in placental iron homeostasis in determining perinatal outcomes of pregnancies associated with GDM and/or maternal obesity.



Diabetes, Iron, Metabolism, Obesity, Placenta, Pregnancy, Humans, Pregnancy, Female, Animals, Mice, Iron, Ferroptosis, Fetal Weight, Obesity, Maternal, Placenta, Fetus, Diet, High-Fat

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Cell Mol Life Sci

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine (Lister Research Prize 2018)
Medical Research Council (MR/R022690/1)