LAT1-dependent placental methionine uptake is a key player in fetal programming of metabolic disease

Mariana Schroeder, Barbara Fuenzalida, Nan Yi, Saira Shahnawaz, Jürg Gertsch, Daniele Pellegata, Edgar Ontsouka, Andrea Leiva, Jaime Gutiérrez, Martin Müller, Marcela A. Brocco, Christiane Albrecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease hypothesis sustains that exposure to different stressors during prenatal development prepares the offspring for the challenges to be encountered after birth. We studied the gestational period as a particularly vulnerable window where different stressors can have strong implications for fetal programming of the offspring's life-long metabolic status via alterations of specific placentally expressed nutrient transporters. To study this mechanism, we used a murine prenatal stress model, human preeclampsia, early miscarriage, and healthy placental tissue samples, in addition to in vitro models of placental cells. In stressed mice, placental overexpression of L-type amino acid transporter 1 (Lat1) and subsequent global placental DNA hypermethylation was accompanied by fetal and adult hypothalamic dysregulation in global DNA methylation and gene expression as well as long-term metabolic abnormalities exclusively in female offspring. In human preeclampsia, early miscarriage, and under hypoxic conditions, placental LAT1 was significantly upregulated, leading to increased methionine uptake and global DNA hypermethylation. Remarkably, subgroups of healthy term placentas with high expression of stress-related genes presented increased levels of placental LAT1 mRNA and protein, DNA and RNA hypermethylation, increased methionine uptake capacity, one-carbon metabolic pathway disruption, higher methionine concentration in the placenta and transport to the fetus specifically in females. Since LAT1 mediates the intracellular accumulation of methionine, global DNA methylation, and one-carbon metabolism in the placenta, our findings hint at a major sex-specific global response to a variety of prenatal stressors affecting placental function, epigenetic programming, and life-long metabolic disease and provide a much-needed insight into early-life factors predisposing females/women to metabolic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155793
JournalMetabolism: Clinical and Experimental
StatePublished - Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes

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  • Environmental stress
  • Fetal programming
  • Metabolic disease
  • Miscarriage
  • Placenta
  • Preeclampsia
  • Sex differences


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