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The polar-lipid composition of the placenta reflects its cellular heterogeneity and metabolism. This study explored relationships between placental polar-lipid composition, gene expression and neonatal body composition. Placental tissue and maternal and offspring data were collected in the Southampton Women's Survey. Lipid and RNA were extracted from placental tissue and polar lipids measured by mass spectrometry, while gene expression was assessed using the nCounter analysis platform. Principal component analysis was used to identify patterns within placental lipid composition and these were correlated with neonatal body composition and placental gene expression. In the analysis of placental lipids, the first three principal components explained 19.1%, 12.7% and 8.0% of variation in placental lipid composition, respectively. Principal component 2 was characterised by high principal component scores for acyl-alkyl-glycerophosphatidylcholines and lipid species containing DHA. Principal component 2 was associated with placental weight and neonatal lean mass; this component was associated with gene expression of APOE, PLIN2, FATP2, FABP4, LEP, G0S2, PNPLA2 and SRB1. Principal components 1 and 3 were not related to birth outcomes but they were associated with the gene expression of lipid related genes. Principal component 1 was associated with expression of LEP, APOE, FATP2 and ACAT2. Principal component 3 was associated with expression of PLIN2, PLIN3 and PNPLA2. This study demonstrates that placentas of different sizes have specific differences in polar-lipid composition and related gene expression. These differences in lipid composition were associated with birth weight and neonatal lean mass, suggesting that placental lipid composition may influence prenatal lean mass accretion.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochim biophys acta mol cell biol lipids

Publication Date





Gene expression, Lipidomics, Phospholipids, Placenta, Pregnancy