Taurine 8 pp 81-91 | Cite as

Reduced Placental Taurine Transporter (TauT) Activity in Pregnancies Complicated by Pre-eclampsia and Maternal Obesity

  • Michelle Desforges
  • Andrea Ditchfield
  • Chloe R. Hirst
  • Claire Pegorie
  • Kathryn Martyn-Smith
  • Colin P. Sibley
  • Susan L. GreenwoodEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 776)


Taurine is an important nutrient in intrauterine life, being required for fetal organ development and cellular renewal of syncytiotrophoblast (STB), the nutrient transport epithelium of the placenta. As taurine is conditionally essential in human pregnancy, the fetal and placental demand for taurine is met by uptake from maternal blood into STB through the activity of TauT. Pre-eclampsia (PE) and maternal obesity are serious complications of pregnancy, associated with fetal growth restriction (FGR) and abnormal renewal of STB, and maternal obesity is a major risk factor for PE. Here we test the hypothesis that STB TauT activity is reduced in maternal obesity and PE compared to normal pregnancy.

STB TauT activity, measured in fragments of placental tissue, was negatively related to maternal BMI over the range 18–46 kg/m2 in both the first trimester (7–12 weeks gestation) and at term (p < 0.01; linear regression). Neither TauT activity nor expression in the first trimester differed to normal pregnancy at term. STB TauT activity was significantly lower in PE than normal pregnancy (p < 0.01). Neuropeptide Y (NPY), a protein kinase C (PKC) activator which is elevated in PE and obesity, reduced STB TauT activity by 20% (50 pM–50 nM: 2 h) (p < 0.03). Activation of PKC by phorbol 12-myristate-13-acetate (1 μM) reduced TauT activity by 18% (p < 0.05). As TauT activity is inhibited by phosphorylation, we propose that NPY activates PKC in the STB which phosphorylates TauT in PE and maternal obesity.

Reduced TauT activity could contribute to dysregulated renewal of STB and FGR that are common to PE and maternal obesity.


Normal Pregnancy Fetal Growth Restriction Maternal Obesity Maternal Body Mass Index Cytotrophoblast Cell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Taurine transporter




Microvillous membrane


Basal membrane




Fetal growth restriction


Body mass index


Neuropeptide Y


Protein kinase C




Quantitative polymerase chain reaction



The authors thank the midwives and nursing staff of St. Mary’s Hospital for their assistance in obtaining placentas. The research was funded by The Wellcome Trust, Action Medical Research, and Tommy’s (Let’s Talk Baby).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle Desforges
    • 1
  • Andrea Ditchfield
    • 1
  • Chloe R. Hirst
    • 1
  • Claire Pegorie
    • 1
  • Kathryn Martyn-Smith
    • 1
  • Colin P. Sibley
    • 1
  • Susan L. Greenwood
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, Institute of Human Development, Manchester Academic Health Sciences CentreUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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