Extracellular vesicles are dynamic regulators of maternal glucose homeostasis during pregnancy

Hannah C. Zierden, Ruth Marx-Rattner, Kylie D. Rock, Kristen R. Montgomery, Pavlos Anastasiadis, Lillian Folts, Tracy L. Bale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Homeostatic regulation of the maternal milieu during pregnancy is critical for maternal and fetal health. The placenta facilitates critical communication between maternal and fetal compartments, in part, through the production of extracellular vesicles (EVs). EVs enable tissue synchrony via cell–cell and long-distance communication and are at their highest circulating concentration during pregnancy. While much work has been done investigating how physiological challenges in pregnancy affect the fetus, the role of placental communication in maternal health has not been well examined. We previously identified placental O-glycosyl transferase (OGT), a glucose-sensing enzyme, as a target of maternal stress where OGT levels and activity affected the O-glycosylation of proteins critical for EV cargo loading and secretion. Here, we hypothesized that placental OGT plays an essential role in maternal homeostatic regulation during pregnancy via its regulation of maternal circulating EV concentrations. Our studies found that changes to key metabolic factors over the circadian cycle, including glucocorticoids, insulin, and glucose, were significantly associated with changes in circulating EV concentration. Targeting placental OGT in mice, we found a novel significant positive relationship between placental OGT and maternal circulating EV concentration that was associated with improving maternal glucose tolerance during pregnancy. Finally, an intravenous elevation in EVs, matching the concentration of EVs during pregnancy, shifted non-pregnant female glucose sensitivity, blunted glucose variance, and improved synchrony of glucose uptake. These data suggest an important and novel role for circulating EVs as homeostatic regulators important in maternal health during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4568
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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