Uptake of long chain fatty acids by human placental choriocarcinoma (BeWo) cells

Fiona Margaret Campbell, A M Clohessy, Margaret Jane Gordon, Kenneth R Page, Asim K Dutta-Roy

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In order to understand the mechanisms by which fatty acids are taken up by the placenta, the uptake of oleic, linoleic, arachidonic, and docosahexaenoic acids by cultured human placental choriocarcinoma (BeWo) cells was examined. Fatty acid uptake by BeWo cells was temperature-dependent and exhibited saturable kinetics. Oleic acid was taken up least and docosahexaenoic acid most by these cells. Moreover, competitive studies of fatty acid uptake by BeWo cells also indicated preferential uptake compared with oleic acid in the order of docosahexaenoic acid, arachidonic acid, and linoleic acid. Western blot analysis demonstrated that BeWo cells express a protein immunoreactive with antibodies to the human placental plasma membrane fatty acid-binding protein (p-FABP(pm)). Furthermore, pre-treatment of BeWo cells with these antibodies inhibited most of the uptake of docosahexaenoic (64%) and arachidonic acids (68%) whereas oleic acid uptake was inhibited only 32% compared with the controls treated with preimmune serum. These results clearly demonstrate that the p-FABP(pm) may be involved in the preferential uptake of essential fatty acids (EFA) and their long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) by these cells. Studies on the distribution of radiolabeled fatty acids in the cellular lipids of BeWo cells showed that docosahexaenoic acid was incorporated mainly in the triacylglycerol fraction, followed by the phospholipid fraction, whereas for arachidonic acid the reverse was true. The preferential incorporation of docosahexaenoic acid into triacylglycerol suggests that triacylglycerol may play an important role in the placental transport of docosahexaenoic acid to the fetal circulation. Together these results demonstrate the preferential uptake of EFA/LCPUFA by BeWo cells that is most probably mediated via the p-FABP(pm). We thus propose that the p-FABP(pm) may be involved in the sequestration of maternal plasma LCPUFA by the placenta.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2558-2568
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Lipid Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1997


  • fatty acid uptake
  • p-FABP(pm)
  • placenta
  • BeWo cells
  • long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • fatty acid uptake
  • placenta
  • long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • human hepatoma-cell
  • docosahexaenoic acid
  • linoleic acid
  • rat-brain
  • metabolism
  • transport
  • differentiation
  • liver
  • identification
  • requirements


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