Placental Proteomics Reveal Insights into Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) describe many of the well-known neurodevelopmental deficits afflicting children exposed to alcohol in utero. The effects of alcohol on the maternal-fetal interface, especially the placenta, have been less explored. We herein hypothesized that chronic binge alcohol exposure during pregnancy significantly alters the placental protein profile in a rat FASD model. METHODS: Pregnant rats were orogastrically treated daily with alcohol (4.5 g/kg, gestational day [GD] 5 to 10; 6.0 g/kg, GD 11 to 19) or 50% maltose dextrin (isocalorically matched pair-fed controls). On GD 20, placentae were collected, flash-frozen, and stored until tissues were homogenized. Protein lysates were denatured, reduced, captured on a 10-kDa spin filter, and digested. Peptides were eluted, reconstituted, and analyzed by a Q Exactive™ Hybrid Quadrupole-Orbitrap™ mass spectrometer. RESULTS: Mass spectrometry (MS) analysis identified 2,285 placental proteins based on normalized spectral counts and 2,000 proteins by intensity-based absolute quantification. Forty-five placental proteins were significantly (p < 0.05) altered by gestational alcohol exposure by both quantification approaches. These included proteins directly related to alcohol metabolism; specific isoforms of alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase were up-regulated in the alcohol group. Ingenuity analysis identified ethanol degradation as the most significantly altered canonical pathway in placenta, and fetal/organ development as most altered function, with increased risk for metabolic, neurological, and cardiovascular diseases. Physiological roles of the significantly altered proteins were related to early pregnancy adaptations, implantation, gestational diseases, fetal organ development, neurodevelopment, and immune functions. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that the placenta is a valuable organ not only to understand FASD etiology but it may also serve as a diagnostic tool to identify novel biomarkers for detecting the outcome of fetal alcohol exposure. Placental MS analysis can offer sophisticated insights into identifying alcohol metabolism-related enzymes and regulators of fetal development.

author list (cited authors)

  • Davis‐Anderson, K. L., Berger, S., Lunde‐Young, E. R., Naik, V. D., Seo, H., Johnson, G. A., Steen, H., & Ramadoss, J.

citation count

  • 8

publication date

  • August 2017