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Obesity and excessive lipolysis are implicated in preeclampsia (PE). Intrauterine growth restriction is associated with low maternal body mass index and decreased lipolysis. Our aim was to assess how maternal and offspring fatty acid metabolism is altered in mothers in the third trimester of pregnancy with PE (n=62) or intrauterine growth restriction (n=23) compared with healthy pregnancies (n=164). Markers of lipid metabolism and erythrocyte fatty acid concentrations were measured. Maternal adipose tissue fatty acid composition and mRNA expression of adipose tissue fatty acid-metabolizing enzymes and placental fatty acid transporters were compared. Mothers with PE had higher plasma triglyceride (21%, P<0.001) and nonesterified fatty acid (50%, P<0.001) concentrations than controls. Concentrations of major n-6 and n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in erythrocytes were 23% to 60% lower (all P<0.005) in PE and intrauterine growth restriction mothers and offspring compared with controls. Subcutaneous adipose tissue Δ-5 and Δ-6 desaturase and very long-chain fatty acid elongase mRNA expression was lower in PE than controls (respectively, mean [SD] control 3.38 [2.96] versus PE 1.83 [1.91], P=0.030; 3.33 [2.25] versus 1.03 [0.96], P<0.001; 0.40 [0.81] versus 0.00 [0.00], P=0.038 expression relative to control gene [square root]). Low maternal and fetal long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations in PE may be the result of decreased maternal synthesis.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1078 - 1085


Fatty Acids, Unsaturated, Female, Fetal Growth Retardation, Humans, Pre-Eclampsia, Pregnancy