O-linkedN-acetyl-glucosamine deposition in placental proteins varies according to maternal glycemic levels

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Hyperglycemia increases glycosylation with O-linked N-acetyl-glucosamine (O-GlcNAc) contributing to placental dysfunction and fetal growth impairment. Our aim was to determine how O-GlcNAc levels are affected by hyperglycemia and the O-GlcNAc distribution in different placental regions.

Main methods:

Female Wistar rats were divided into the following groups: severe hyperglycemia (>300 mg/dL; n = 5); mild hyperglycemia (>140 mg/dL, at least than two time points during oral glucose tolerance test; n = 7) or normoglycemia (<120 mg/dL; n = 6). At 21 days of pregnancy, placental tissue was collected and processed for morphometry and immunohistochemistry analyses, or properly stored at −80 °C for protein quantification by western blot.

Key findings:

Placental index was increased only in severe hyperglycemic rats. Morphometric analysis showed increased junctional zone and decreased labyrinth region in placentas exclusively from the severe hyperglycemic group. Proteins targeted by O-GlcNAc were detected in all regions, with increased O-GlcNAc levels in the hyperglycemic group compared to control and mild hyperglycemic rats. Proteins in endothelial and trophoblast cells were the main target for O-GlcNAc. Whereas no changes in O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) expression were detected, O-GlcNAcase (OGA) expression was reduced in placentas from the severe hyperglycemic group and augmented in placentas from the mild hyperglycemic group, compared with their respective control groups.


Placental O-GlcNAc overexpression may contribute to placental dysfunction, as indicated by the placental index. Additionally, morphometric alterations, occurring simultaneously with increased O-GlcNAc accumulation in the placental tissue may contribute to placental dysfunction during hyperglycemia.

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