Placental adaptations in a nonhuman primate model of gestational protein restriction

Victoria Roberts, Jessica E. Gaffney, Terry K. Morgan, Antonio E. Frias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We previously demonstrated decreased placental perfusion, reduced amniotic fluid protein content, and increased pregnancy loss in a nonhuman primate model of gestational protein restriction. Here, our objective was to link these detrimental findings with a functional placental assessment. As blood flow is critical to maternal-fetal exchange, we hypothesized that a protein-restricted diet would impair placental taurine uptake. Pregnant rhesus macaques were maintained on either control chow (CON, n = 5), a 33% protein-restricted diet (PR33, n = 5), or a 50% PR diet (PR50, n = 5) prior to and throughout pregnancy. Animals were delivered on gestational day 135 (G135; term is G168). Taurine activity was determined in fresh placental villous explants. Taurine transporter (TauT) protein expression, placental growth factor (PLGF), and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 and IGF-2 protein concentrations were measured, and histological assessment was performed. Fetal body weights and placental weights were comparable between all three groups at G135. Placental taurine uptake was decreased in PR33- and PR50-fed animals compared to CON, yet TauT expression was unchanged across groups. PLGF was significantly increased in PR50 vs. CON, with no change in IGF-1 or IGF-2 expression in placental homogenate from PR-fed animals. Accelerated villous maturation was observed in all PR50 cases, three of five PR33, and was absent in CON. We demonstrate conserved fetal growth, despite a decrease in placental taurine uptake. Increased expression of PLGF and expansion of the syncytiotrophoblast surface area in the severely protein-restricted animals suggest a compensatory mechanism by the placenta to maintain fetal growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)908-914
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 14 2021


  • Protein restriction
  • nonhuman primate
  • nutrient transport
  • placental plasticity
  • taurine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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