Pregnancy and weaning regulate human maternal liver size and function

Alexandra Q. Bartlett, Kimberly K. Vesco, Jonathan Q. Purnell, Melanie Francisco, Erica Goddard, Xiangnan Guan, Andrea DeBarber, Michael C. Leo, Eric Baetscher, William Rooney, Willscott Naugler, Alexander R. Guimaraes, Patrick Catalano, Zheng Xia, Pepper Schedin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


During pregnancy, the rodent liver undergoes hepatocyte proliferation and increases in size, followed by weaning-induced involution via hepatocyte cell death and stromal remodeling, creating a prometastatic niche. These data suggest a mechanism for increased liver metastasis in breast cancer patients with recent childbirth. It is unknown whether the human liver changes in size and function during pregnancy and weaning. In this study, abdominal imaging was obtained in healthy women at early and late pregnancy and postwean. During pregnancy time points, glucose production and utilization and circulating bile acids were measured. Independently of weight gain, most women's livers increased in size with pregnancy, then returned to baseline postwean. Putative roles for bile acids in liver growth and regression were observed. Together, the data support the hypothesis that the human liver is regulated by reproductive state with growth during pregnancy and volume loss postwean. These findings have implications for sex-specific liver diseases and for breast cancer outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2107269118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
StatePublished - Nov 30 2021


  • Bile acids
  • Liver
  • Maternal health
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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