Effect of maternal age and growth on placental nutrient transport: Potential mechanisms for teenagers' predisposition to small-for-gestational-age birth?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • External authors:
  • Philip N. Baker
  • John R G Challis


Teenagers have an increased risk of delivering small-for-gestational-age (SGA) infants. Young maternal age and continued skeletal growth have been implicated as causal factors. In growing adolescent sheep, impaired placental development and nutrient transfer cause reduced birth weight. In human pregnancies, SGA is associated with reduced placental amino acid transport. Maternal growth has no effect on placental morphology or cell turnover, but growing teenagers have higher birth weight:placental weight ratios than nongrowing teenagers. We hypothesized that placental nutrient transporter activity would be affected by maternal age and/or growth status. Placentas from teenagers and adults were collected. Teenagers were defined as growing or nongrowing based on knee height measurements. System A amino acid transporter activity was quantified as sodium-dependent uptake of [ 14C]methylaminoisobutyric acid into placental fragments. Teenagers had lower placental system A activity than adults (P <0.05). In adults, placental system A activity was lower in SGA infants than appropriate-for-gestational-age (AGA) infants (P <0.05). In teenagers, AGA and SGA infants had lower placental system A activity than AGA infants born to adults (P <0.05). Placental system A activity was higher in growing teenagers than in nongrowing teenagers (P <0.001). Placental mRNA expression of system A transporter isoforms SLC38A1 and -2 was lower in teenagers than in adults (P <0.05) but did not differ between growing and nongrowing teenagers. There was no difference in transporter protein expression/localization between cohorts. Teenagers have inherently reduced placental transport, which may underlie their susceptibility to delivering SGA infants. Growing teenagers appear to overcome this susceptibility by stimulating the activity, but not expression, of system A transporters. © 2012 the American Physiological Society.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E233-E242
JournalAJP: Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012