Placental BDNF/TrkB signaling system is modulated by fetal growth disturbances in rat and human.
ABSTRACT The brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been shown to exert an important role during implantation, placental development, and fetal growth control in mice. Its expression is closely related to the nutritional status in several tissues such as in the nervous system. In a previous study, we demonstrated that maternal undernutrition (MU), during the perinatal life, modified both the BDNF and its functional receptor, the tyrosine kinase receptor B (TrkB) gene expression in the brain of growth-restricted rat offspring during sensitive developmental windows, suggesting that these early modifications may have long-lasting consequences. In the present study, we measured BDNF/TrkB mRNA and protein levels in rat placentas from mothers submitted to a 50% food restriction during gestation, and in human placentas from pregnancies with fetal growth restriction or fetal macrosomia. In the rat, two subtypes of placental TrkB receptors have been identified: the TrkB-FL and TrkB-T1 receptors. We found that MU induced intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) of fetuses at term and decreased the placental BDNF mRNA and protein levels. Placentae from undernourished mothers exhibited an increased mRNA expression of TrkB-FL whereas both TrkB-FL and TrkB-T1 receptors proteins levels were not modified. In human IUGR placentas, both BDNF and TrkB receptor mRNA expressions were up-regulated. Finally, although neither BDNF nor TrkB mRNA levels were altered by fetal macrosomia alone, BDNF mRNA levels were decreased when macrosomia was associated with maternal type 1 diabetes. These results show that the placental BDNF/TrkB system is modulated in rats and humans during pregnancies with fetal growth perturbations and is affected by the maternal energetic status. These data suggest that this system may exert an important role for the feto-placental unit development and that it may also be implicated in the etiology of pathologies related to placental and fetal growth disturbances.