Placental metabolism: substrate requirements and the response to stress

28 Nov 2017

The placenta is a dynamic, metabolically active organ with significant nutrient and energy requirements for growth, nutrient transfer and protein synthesis. It uses a range of substrates to meet its energy needs and has a higher rate of oxygen (O2) consumption than many other foetal and adult tissues. Placental metabolism varies with species and alters in response to a range of nutritional and endocrine signals of adverse environmental conditions. The placenta integrates these signals and adapts its metabolic phenotype to help maintain pregnancy and to optimize offspring fitness by diversifying the sources of carbon and nitrogen available for energy production, hormone synthesis and foeto-placental growth. The metabolic response of the placenta to adversity depends on the nature, severity and duration of the stressful challenge and on whether the insult is maternal, placental or foetal in origin. This review examines placental metabolism and its response to stresses common in pregnancy with particular emphasis on farm species like the sheep. It also considers the consequences of changes in placental metabolism for the supply of O2 and nutrients to the foetus.