The placental lipidome of maternal antenatal depression predicts socio-emotional problems in the offspring

Gerard Wong, Jacquelyn M. Weir, Priti Mishra, Kevin Huynh, Brunda Nijagal, Varsha Gupta, Birit F.P. Broekman, Mary Foong Fong Chong, Shiao Yng Chan, Kok Hian Tan, Dedreia Tull, Malcolm McConville, Philip C. Calder, Keith M. Godfrey, Yap Seng Chong, Peter D. Gluckman, Michael J. Meaney, Peter J. Meikle, Neerja Karnani

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While maternal mental health strongly influences neurodevelopment and health in the offspring, little is known about the determinants of inter-individual variation in the mental health of mothers. Likewise, the in utero biological pathways by which variation in maternal mental health affects offspring development remain to be defined. Previous studies implicate lipids, consistent with a known influence on cognitive and emotional function, but the relevance for maternal mental health and offspring neurodevelopment is unclear. This study characterizes the placental and circulatory lipids in antenatal depression, as well as socio-emotional outcomes in the offspring. Targeted liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry covering 470 lipid species was performed on placenta from 186 women with low (n = 70) or high (n = 116) levels of antenatal depressive symptoms assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale at 26 weeks’ gestation. Child socio-emotional outcomes were assessed from the Child Behavior Check List (CBCL) at 48 months. Seventeen placental lipid species showed an inverse association with antenatal EPDS scores. Specifically, lower levels of phospholipids containing LC-PUFAs: omega-3 docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and omega-6 arachidonic acid (AA) were significantly associated with depressive symptoms. Additional measurement of LC-PUFA in antenatal plasma samples at mid-gestation confirmed the reduced circulation of these specific fatty acids in mothers. Reduced concentration of the placental phospholipids also predicted poorer socio-emotional outcomes in the offspring. This study provides new insights into the role of the materno-fetal lipid cross-talk as a mechanism linking maternal mental health to that of the offspring. These findings show the potential utility of nutritional approaches among pregnant women with depressive symptoms to reduce offspring risk for later socio-emotional problems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

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