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Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is a complication of pregnancy that reduces birth weight, markedly increases infant mortality and morbidity and is associated with later-life cardiometabolic disease. No specific treatment is available for FGR. Placentas of human FGR infants have low abundance of sodium-coupled neutral amino acid transporter 2 (Slc38a2/SNAT2), which supplies the fetus with amino acids required for growth. We determined the mechanistic role of placental Slc38a2/SNAT2 deficiency in the development of restricted fetal growth, hypothesizing that placenta-specific Slc38a2 knockdown causes FGR in mice. Using lentiviral transduction of blastocysts with a small hairpin RNA (shRNA), we achieved 59% knockdown of placental Slc38a2, without altering fetal Slc38a2 expression. Placenta-specific Slc38a2 knockdown reduced near-term fetal and placental weight, fetal viability, trophoblast plasma membrane (TPM) SNAT2 protein abundance, and both absolute and weight-specific placental uptake of the amino acid transport System A tracer, 14C-methylaminoisobutyric acid (MeAIB). We also measured human placental SLC38A2 gene expression in a well-defined term clinical cohort and found that SLC38A2 expression was decreased in late-onset, but not early-onset FGR, compared with appropriate for gestational age (AGA) control placentas. The results demonstrate that low placental Slc38a2/SNAT2 causes FGR and could be a target for clinical therapies for late-onset FGR.


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