Reserch Topics

Department of Public Health (Suzuki Lab.)

Prolonged endoplasmic reticulum stress alters placental morphology and causes low birth weight

Kawakami T, Yoshimi M, Kadota Y, Inoue M, Sato M and Suzuki S.

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2014 Mar 1;275(2):134-44.


 •Maternal exposure to excessive ER stress induced preterm birth and IUGR.

•Prolonged excessive ER stress altered the formation of the placental labyrinth.

•ER stress decreased GLUT1 mRNA expression in the placenta, but increased GLUT3.

•ER stress-induced IUGR causes decreased glycogen and altered glucose transport.


The role of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in pregnancy remains largely unknown. Pregnant mice were subcutaneously administered tunicamycin (Tun), an ER stressor, as a single dose [0, 50, and 100 μg Tun/kg/body weight (BW)] on gestation days (GDs) 8.5, 12.5, and 15.5. A high incidence (75%) of preterm delivery was observed only in the group treated with Tun 100 μg/kg BW at GD 15.5, indicating that pregnant mice during late gestation are more susceptible to ER stress on preterm delivery. We further examined whether prolonged in utero exposure to ER stress affects fetal development. Pregnant mice were subcutaneously administered a dose of 0, 20, 40, and 60 μg Tun/kg from GD 12.5 to 16.5. Tun treatment decreased the placental and fetal weights in a dose-dependent manner. Histological evaluation showed the formation of a cluster of spongiotrophoblast cells in the labyrinth zone of the placenta of Tun-treated mice. The glycogen content of the fetal liver and placenta from Tun-treated mice was lower than that from control mice. Tun treatment decreased mRNA expression of Slc2a1/glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1), which is a major transporter for glucose, but increased placental mRNA levels of Slc2a3/GLUT3. Moreover, maternal exposure to Tun resulted in a decrease in vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (VEGFR-1), VEGFR-2, and placental growth factor. These results suggest that excessive and exogenous ER stress may induce functional abnormalities in the placenta, at least in part, with altered GLUT and vascular-related gene expression, resulting in low infant birth weight.