Higher Mitochondrial DNA Content in Human IUGR Placenta

D. Lattuada, F. Colleoni, A. Martinelli, A. Garretto, R. Magni, T. Radaelli, I. Cetin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


IUGR has been associated to a specific placental phenotype with reduced uptake of specific nutrients. Recently, it has been hypothesized that IUGR may be determined during early gestation. This period is characterized by decidual trophoblast invasion and by intense cellular growth, replication and differentiation. Since a huge energetic availability is required during gestation, we hypothesize that mitochondria may play a crucial role in this process being the main energetic producer in the cell. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of mitochondria in IUGR pathogenesis, evaluating the number of mitochondrial DNA copies (mtDNA) in IUGR placentae compared to controls. Placental samples were collected from 50 singleton pregnancies at the time of elective caesarean section. Twenty-six pregnancies were controls with normal intrauterine growth (AGA) and 24 were studied after the in utero diagnosis of IUGR. All samples were analyzed by real-time quantitative PCR and statistical analysis was performed by non-parametric tests. The median value of mitochondrial DNA content (IQR) in AGA and IUGR placentae was significantly different (455 and 698, respectively, p = 0.004). The cell types responsible for the difference observed is unknown and it is possible that changes observed in the proportion of cell types may influence this measurement. Moreover, a significant negative relationship was observed between mtDNA and umbilical venous pO2, with the highest levels detected in the most severe IUGR cases according to Doppler findings and to the presence of preeclampsia. These data suggest a relationship between the pathogenesis of IUGR and increased placental mtDNA copies. From our results we can speculate that increased mtDNA represents an adaptation of the metabolic placental mechanism to the calorie restriction of the fetus. Furthermore, we found that this rise was inversely related to oxygen tension in the umbilical vein. Although no specific pathogenetic role can be implied, mtDNA increases with hypoxia in placentas of IUGR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1029-1033
Number of pages5
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • IUGR
  • Mitochondrial DNA content
  • Placenta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Developmental Biology


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