Reactive oxygen species from mitochondria impacts trophoblast fusion and the production of endocrine hormones by syncytiotrophoblasts Journal Articles uri icon

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  • The placenta, a tissue that is metabolically active and rich in mitochondria, forms a critical interface between the mother and developing fetus. Oxidative stress within this tissue, derived from the dysregulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), has been linked to a number of adverse fetal outcomes. While such outcomes have been associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, the causal role of mitochondrial dysfunction and mitochondrially generated ROS in altering the process of placentation remains unclear. In this study, mitochondrial complex I activity was attenuated using 10 nM rotenone to induce cellular oxidative stress by increasing mitochondrial ROS production in the BeWo choriocarcinoma cell line. Increased mitochondrial ROS resulted in a significant decrease in the transcripts which encode for proteins associated with fusion (GCM1, ERVW-1, and ERVFRD-1) resulting in a 5-fold decrease in the percentage of BeWo fusion. This outcome was associated with increased indicators of mitochondrial fragmentation, as determined by decreased expression of MFN2 and OPA1 along with an increase in a marker of mitochondrial fission (DRP1). Importantly, increased mitochondrial ROS also resulted in a 5.0-fold reduction of human placental lactogen (PL) and a 4.4-fold reduction of insulin like growth factor 2 (IGF2) transcripts; hormones which play an important role in regulating fetal growth. The pre-treatment of rotenone-exposed cells with 5 mM N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) resulted in the prevention of these ROS mediated changes in BeWo function and supports a central role for mitochondrial ROS signaling in the maintenance and function of the materno-fetal interface.


  • Walker, O’Llenecia S
  • Ragos, Rehginald
  • Wong, Michael K
  • Adam, Mohamed
  • Cheung, Anson
  • Raha, Sandeep

publication date

  • 2020