Background: Abnormal fatty acid oxidation (FAO) is associated with maternal and fetal complications during
pregnancy. The contribution of maternal and fetal tissues to FAO capacity during late pregnancy is important to
understand the pathophysiology of pregnancy-associated complications. The aim of this study was to determine
the expression levels of mitochondrial FAO enzymes in maternal and fetal tissues during late normal pregnancy.
Methods: We have measured by Real-time PCR the levels of long- and medium -chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase
(LCHAD and MCAD), two acyl-CoA dehydrogenases that catalyze the initial step in the mitochondrial FAO spiral.
Results: LCHAD and MCAD were expressed in maternal skeletal muscle, subcutaneous adipose tissue, placenta, and
maternal and fetal blood cells. LCHAD gene expression was four- to 16-fold higher than MCAD gene expression in
placenta, adipose tissue and skeletal muscle. In contrast, MCAD gene expression was ~5-fold higher in fetal blood
than maternal blood (p = 0.02), whereas LCHAD gene expression was similar between fetal blood and maternal
blood (p =0.91).
Conclusions: LCHAD and MCAD are differentially expressed in maternal and fetal tissues during normal late
pregnancy, which may represent a metabolic adaptation in response to physiological maternal dyslipidemia during
Fatty acid metabolism Long-chain acyl CoA dehydrogenase Medium-chain acyl CoA dehydrogenase Placenta