Changes in mitochondrial respiration in the human placenta over gestation

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Holland, Olivia J
Hickey, Anthony JR
Alvsaker, Anna
Moran, Stephanie
Hedges, Christopher
Chamley, Lawrence W
Perkins, Anthony V
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Introduction: Placental mitochondria are subjected to micro-environmental changes throughout gestation, in particular large variations in oxygen. How placental mitochondrial respiration adapts to changing oxygen concentrations remains unexplored. Additionally, placental tissue is often studied in culture; however, the effect of culture on placental mitochondria is unclear. Material and methods: Placental tissue was obtained from first trimester and term (laboured and nonlaboured) pregnancies, and selectively permeabilized to access mitochondria. Respirometry was used to compare respiration states and substrate use in mitochondria. Additionally, explants of placental tissue were cultured for four, 12, 24, 48, or 96 h and respiration measured. Results: Mitochondrial respiration decreased at 11 weeks compared to earlier gestations (p ¼ 0.05 e0.001), and mitochondrial content increased at 12e13 weeks compared to 7e10 weeks (p ¼ 0.042). In term placentae, oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) through mitochondrial complex IV (p < 0.001), the relative proportion of OXPHOS CI (p < 0.001), the total capacity of the respiratory system (p ¼ 0.003), and mitochondrial content (p < 0.001) were higher compared to first trimester. Respiration was increased (p 0.006e0.001) in laboured compared to non-laboured placenta. After four hours of culture, respiration was depressed compared to fresh tissue from the same placenta and continued to decline with time in culture. Markers of apoptosis were increased, while markers of autophagy, mitochondrial biogenesis, and mitochondrial membrane potential were decreased after four hours of culture. Discussion: Respiration and mitochondrial content alter over gestation/with labour. Decreased respiration at 11 weeks and increased mitochondrial content at 12e13 weeks may relate to onset of maternal blood flow, and increased respiration as a result of labour may be an adaptation to ischaemiareperfusion. At term, mitochondria were more susceptible to changes in respiratory function relative to first trimester when cultured in vitro, perhaps reflecting changes in metabolic demands as gestation progresses. Metabolic plasticity of placental mitochondria has relevance to placenta-mediated diseases.

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© 2017 Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Licence ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, providing that the work is properly cited.

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