School of Life Science, Shanxi University, Taiyuan 030006, China; Bio-X Institutes, Key Laboratory for the Genetics of Developmental and Neuropsychiatric Disorders (Ministry of Education), Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200030, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Cadmium (Cd) is one of the environmental pollutants, which has multiple toxic effects on fetuses and placentas. Placental fatty acid (FA) uptake and transport are critical for the fetal and placental development. We aimed to analyze the triglyceride (TG) level, the expression patterns of several key genes involved in FA uptake and transport, and the molecular mechanisms for the altered gene expressions in placentas in response to Cd treatment. Our results showed that the placental TG level was significantly decreased in the Cd-exposed placentas. Fatty acid transporting protein 1 (FATP1), FATP6 and fatty acid binding protein 3 (FABP3) were significantly down-regulated in the placentas from Cd-exposed mice. The expression level of phospho-p38 MAPK was increased by Cd treatment, while the protein level of total p38 MAPK remained unchanged. The expression levels of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ) and the hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) were significantly decreased in the Cd-exposed placentas. The methylation levels of the promoter regions of FATP1, FATP6 and FABP3 showed no significant differences between the treatment and control groups. In addition, the circulating non-esterified fatty acid (NEFA), total cholesterol (TC), and TG levels were not decreased in the maternal serum from the Cd-exposed mice. Therefore, our results suggest Cd exposure dose not reduce the maternal FA supply, but reduces the placental TG level. Cd treatment also downregulates the placental expressions of FATP1, FATP6 and FABP3, respectively associated with p38-MAPK, p38 MAPK/PPAR-γ and HIF-1α pathways.