Introduction Obesity during pregnancy increases the risk for maternal complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and maternal inflammation. Maternal obesity also increases the risk of childhood obesity, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and diabetes to the offspring. Increased circulating free fatty acids (FFAs) in obesity due to adipose tissue lipolysis induces lipoapoptosis to hepatocytes, cholangiocytes, and pancreatic-β-cells. During the third trimester of human pregnancy, there is an increase in maternal lipolysis and release of FFAs into the circulation. It is currently unknown if increased FFAs during gestation as a result of maternal obesity cause placental cell lipoapoptosis. Increased exposure of FFAs during maternal obesity has been shown to result in placental lipotoxicity. The objective of the present study is to determine saturated FFA-induced trophoblast lipoapoptosis and also to test the protective role of monounsaturated fatty acids against FFA-induced trophoblast lipoapoptosis using in vitro cell culture model. Here, we hypothesize that saturated FFAs induce placental trophoblast lipoapoptosis, which was prevented by monounsaturated fatty acids. Methods Biochemical and structural markers of apoptosis by characteristic nuclear morphological changes with DAPI staining, and caspase 3/7 activity was assessed. Cleaved PARP and cleaved caspase 3 were examined by western blot analysis. Results Treatment of trophoblast cell lines, JEG-3 and JAR cells with palmitate (PA) or stearate (SA) induces trophoblast lipoapoptosis as evidenced by a significant increase in apoptotic nuclear morphological changes and caspase 3/7 activity. We observed that saturated FFAs caused a concentration-dependent increase in placental trophoblast lipoapoptosis. We also observed that monounsaturated fatty acids like palmitoleate and oleate mitigates placental trophoblast lipoapoptosis caused due to PA exposure. Conclusion We show that saturated FFAs induce trophoblast lipoapoptosis. Co-treatment of monounsaturated fatty acids like palmitoleate and oleate protects against FFA-induced trophoblast lipoapoptosis.
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