One-Carbon Metabolism and Development of the Conceptus During Pregnancy: Lessons from Studies with Sheep and Pigs
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The pregnancy recognition signal from the conceptus (embryo/fetus and associated membranes) to the mother is interferon tau (IFNT) in ruminants and estradiol, possibly in concert with interferons gamma and delta in pigs. Those pregnancy recognition signals silence expression of interferon stimulated genes (ISG) in uterine luminal (LE) and superficial glandular (sGE) epithelia while inducing expression of genes for transport of nutrients, including glucose and amino acids, into the uterine lumen to support growth and development of the conceptus. In sheep and pigs, glucose not utilized immediately by the conceptus is converted to fructose. Glucose, fructose, serine and glycine in uterine histotroph can contribute to one carbon (1C) metabolism that provides one-carbon groups for the synthesis of purines and thymidylate, as well as S-adenosylmethionine for epigenetic methylation reactions. Serine and glycine are transported into the mitochondria of cells and metabolized to formate that is transported into the cytoplasm for the synthesis of purines, thymidine and S-adenosylmethionine. The unique aspects of one-carbon metabolism are discussed in the context of the hypoxic uterine environment, aerobic glycolysis, and similarities in metabolism between cancer cells and cells of the rapidly developing fetal-placental tissues during pregnancy. Further, the evolution of anatomical and functional aspects of the placentae of sheep and pigs versus primates is discussed in the context of mechanisms to efficiently obtain, store and utilize nutrients required for rapid fetal growth in the last one-half of gestation.