Maternal Tobacco Smoke Exposure Causes Sex-Divergent Changes in Placental Lipid Metabolism in the Rat

Claudia Weinheimer, Haimei Wang, Jessica M. Comstock, Purneet Singh, Zhengming Wang, Brent A. Locklear, Kasi L. Goodwin, J. Alan Maschek, James E. Cox, Michelle L. Baack, Lisa A. Joss-Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Maternal tobacco smoke exposure (MTS) affects fetal acquisition of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) and increases the risk of obesity and cardio-metabolic disease in the offspring. Alterations in fetal LCPUFA acquisition in maternal smoking are mediated by the placenta. The handling of LCPUFA by the placenta involves protein-mediated transfer and storage. Molecular mediators of placental LCPUFA handling include PPARγ and the fatty acid transport proteins. We previously demonstrated, in a rat model, that MTS results in programming of adult-onset obesity and metabolic disease in male, but not female, offspring. In this study, we test the hypothesis that in utero MTS exposure alters placental structure, placental LCPUFA handling, and fetal fatty acid levels, in a sex-divergent manner. We exposed pregnant rats to tobacco smoke from embryonic day 11 to term gestation. We measured placental and fetal fatty acid profiles, the systolic/diastolic ratio (SD ratio), placental histology, and expression of molecular mediators in the placenta. Our primary finding is that MTS alters fatty acid profiles in male, but not female fetuses and placenta, including increasing the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. MTS also increased SD ratio in male, but not female placenta. In contrast, the expression of PPARγ and FATPs was upregulated in female, but not male placenta. We conclude that MTS causes sex-divergent changes in placental handling of LCPUFA in the rat. We speculate that our results demonstrate an adaptive response to MTS by the female placenta.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-643
Number of pages13
JournalReproductive Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Maternal tobacco smoke
  • Placental lipid
  • Rat model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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