Maternal stress and placental function; ex vivo placental perfusion studying cortisol, cortisone, tryptophan and serotonin

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  • Line Mathiesen, Department of Cardiology, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark Danish Arrhythmia Research Centre, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Cecilie Bay-Richter
  • Gregers Wegener
  • Nico Liebenberg
  • ,
  • Lisbeth E Knudsen, Environmental Epidemiology Group, Section of Environmental Health, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Denmark., Department of Cardiology, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark Danish Arrhythmia Research Centre, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.

BACKGROUND: Exposure to maternal stress during pregnancy can have adverse effects on the fetus, which has potential long-term effects on offspring´s development and health. We investigated the kinetics and metabolism of the hormones and amino acids: cortisol, cortisone, tryptophan and serotonin in the term placenta in an ex vivo human placental perfusion model. The placentas used in the experiments were donated from families participating in the Maternal Stress and Placental Function project with a known maternal stress background.

METHOD: Cortisol, cortisone, tryptophan and serotonin were added simultaneously to the maternal side in the 6 hour ex vivo term human recirculating placental perfusion model, in four experimental set-ups: without inhibitors, with carbenoxolone -that inhibits cortisol metabolism into cortisone, with fluoxetine that inhibits the serotonin transporter, and with PCPA that inhibits metabolism of tryptophan into serotonin. The concentration of cortisol and cortisone, and tryptophan and serotonin were quantified using UPLC and HPLC-MS respectively.

RESULTS: Cortisol was rapidly metabolized into cortisone in the placenta, to a somewhat lesser degree when adding the inhibitor carbenoxolone, resulting in higher fetal exposure to cortisol. Serotonin was also rapidly metabolized in the placenta. When adding fluoxetine a peak of fetal serotonin levels was seen in the first hour of the perfusion. No effect was seen of the maternal stress levels on placental transport kinetics in this study.

CONCLUSION: Inhibiting the metabolism of cortisol in the placenta increased fetal exposure to cortisol as expected. Unexpectedly we saw an increased fetal exposure to serotonin when inhibiting the serotonin transporter, which may be related to the increased serotonin concentration on the maternal side of the placenta. No effect on placental kinetics were evident on maternal stress levels during the pregnancy as the majority of participating mothers had normal stress levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0233979
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume15
Issue6
Number of pages13
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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