Glucose transporter 3 (GLUT3) protein expression in human placenta across gestation

K. Brown, D. S. Heller, S. Zamudio, N. P. Illsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Conflicting information regarding expression of GLUT3 protein in the human placenta has been reported and the localization and pattern of expression of GLUT3 protein across gestation has not been clearly defined. The objective of this study was characterization of syncytial GLUT3 protein expression across gestation. We hypothesized that GLUT3 protein is present in the syncytial microvillous membrane and that its expression decreases over gestation. GLUT3 protein was measured in samples from a range of gestational ages (first to third trimester), with human brain and human bowel used as a positive and negative control respectively. As an additional measure of specificity, we transfected BeWo choriocarcinoma cells, a trophoblast cell line expressing GLUT3, with siRNA directed against GLUT3 and analyzed expression by Western blotting. GLUT3 was detected in the syncytiotrophoblast at all gestational ages by immunohistochemistry. Using Western blotting GLUT3 was detected as an integral membrane protein at a molecular weight of ∼50 kDa in microvillous membranes from all trimesters but not in syncytial basal membranes. The identity of the primary antibody target was confirmed by demonstrating that expression of the immunoblotting signal in GLUT3 siRNA-treated BeWo was decreased to 18 ± 6% (mean ± SEM) of that seen in cells transfected with a non-targeting siRNA. GLUT3 expression in microvillous membranes detected by Western blot decreased through the trimesters such that expression in the second trimester (wks 14-26) was 48 ± 7% of that in the first trimester and by the third trimester (wks 31-40) only 34 ± 10% of first trimester expression. In addition, glucose uptake into BeWo cells treated with GLUT3 siRNA was reduced to 60% of that measured in cells treated with the nontargeting siRNA. This suggests that GLUT3-mediated uptake comprises approximately 50% of glucose uptake into BeWo cells. These results confirm the hypothesis that GLUT3 is present in the syncytial microvillous membrane early in gestation and decreases thereafter, supporting the idea that GLUT3 is of greater importance for glucose uptake early in gestation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1041-1049
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology


  • GLUT3
  • Glucose
  • Human
  • Placenta
  • Transport
  • Trophoblast


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