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Centre for Trophoblast Research


The placenta is a highly metabolically active organ fulfilling the bioenergetic and biosynthetic needs to support its own rapid growth and that of the fetus. Placental metabolic dysfunction is a common occurrence in preeclampsia although its causal relationship to the pathophysiology is unclear. At the outset, this may simply be seen as an “engine out of fuel”. However, placental metabolism plays a vital role beyond energy production and is linked to physiological and developmental processes. In this review, we discuss the metabolic basis for placental dysfunction and propose that the alterations in energy metabolism may explain many of the placental phenotypes of preeclampsia such as reduced placental and fetal growth, redox imbalance, oxidative stress, altered epigenetic and gene expression profiles, and the functional consequences of these aberrations. We propose that placental metabolic reprogramming reflects the dynamic physiological state allowing the tissue to adapt to developmental changes and respond to preeclampsia stress whereas, the inability to reprogram placental metabolism may result in severe preeclampsia phenotypes. Lastly, we discuss common tested and novel therapeutic strategies for treating placental dysfunction in preeclampsia and their impact on placental energy metabolism as possible explanations into their potential benefits or harm.


  • Irving L.M. H. AYE, PhD
  • Catherine E. AIKEN, MD, PhD
  • D. Stephen CHARNOCK-JONES, PhD
  • Gordon C.S. SMITH, MD, PhD

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