Placental mitochondrial dysfunction with metabolic diseases: Therapeutic approaches

Jessica F. Hebert, Leslie Myatt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Both obesity and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) lead to poor maternal and fetal outcomes, including pregnancy complications, fetal growth issues, stillbirth, and developmental programming of adult-onset disease in the offspring. Increased placental oxidative/nitrative stress and reduced placental (trophoblast) mitochondrial respiration occur in association with the altered maternal metabolic milieu of obesity and GDM. The effect is particularly evident when the fetus is male, suggesting a sexually dimorphic influence on the placenta. In addition, obesity and GDM are associated with inflexibility in trophoblast, limiting the ability to switch between usage of glucose, fatty acids, and glutamine as substrates for oxidative phosphorylation, again in a sexually dimorphic manner. Here we review mechanisms underlying placental mitochondrial dysfunction: its relationship to maternal and fetal outcomes and the influence of fetal sex. Prevention of placental oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction may improve pregnancy outcomes. We outline pathways to ameliorate deficient mitochondrial respiration, particularly the benefits and pitfalls of mitochondria-targeted antioxidants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number165967
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Antioxidants
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Mitochondria
  • Obesity
  • Oxidative stress
  • Placenta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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