Long-chain fatty acid transport by the human placenta : the role of fatty acid-binding proteins
The placenta is thought to play a vital role in the transfer of essential fatty (EFA) and their long-chain polyunsaturated derivatives (LCPUFA) from mother to the fetus. There is a preferential accumulation of these fatty acids from maternal to fetal tissues. However, little was known about the manner in which these nutrients preferentially traversed the placenta. This study investigated part of this placental transport mechanism. The results from these investigations demonstrated that the preferential transport of LCPUFA to the fetal circulation may at least be partially mediated by a preferential uptake system in the placenta involving a 40 kDa, placental membrane fatty acid binding protein (p-FABPpm). This protein was found exclusively in the maternal facing microvillous membranes. It was characterised as different from previously identified ubiquitous FABPpm by virtue of having a different pl value, different amino acid composition, no aspartate aminotransferase activity and a higher binding affinity for LCPUFA over non-essential fatty acids. The human choriocarcinoma cell line (BeWo) expressed a protein immunoreactive to anti-p-FABPpm anti-serum. This anti-serum inhibited the binding of LCPUFA to placental membranes and the uptake of LCPUFA by BeWo cells, to a greater degree than it inhibited the uptake and binding of non essential fatty acids. In addition to p-FABPpm the existence of multiple types of both cytosolic (L-FABP and H-FABP) and membrane (FAT and FATP) fatty acid-binding proteins was demonstrated in placental cells. These proteins could play important roles in both the uptake of fatty acids by the placenta and in controlling the fate of fatty acids inside placental cells.