Protective role of the placental efflux transporter BCRP/ABCG2 in the relationship between prenatal cadmium exposure, placenta weight, and size at birth

Emily S. Barrett, Zorimar Rivera-Núñez, Kylie Getz, Pamela Ohman-Strickland, Ranran Zhang, Danielle Kozlosky, Cathleen L. Doherty, Brian T. Buckley, Jessica Brunner, Richard K. Miller, Thomas G. O'Connor, Lauren M. Aleksunes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background and aim: Placental efflux transporter proteins, such as BCRP, reduce the placental and fetal toxicity of environmental contaminants but have received little attention in perinatal environmental epidemiology. Here, we evaluate the potential protective role of BCRP following prenatal exposure to cadmium, a metal that preferentially accumulates in the placenta and adversely impacts fetal growth. We hypothesized that individuals with a reduced function polymorphism in ABCG2, the gene encoding BCRP, would be most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of prenatal cadmium exposure, notably, smaller placental and fetal size. Methods: We measured cadmium in maternal urine samples at each trimester and in term placentas from UPSIDE-ECHO study participants (NY, USA; n = 269). We fit adjusted multivariable linear regression and generalized estimating equation models to examine log-transformed urinary and placental cadmium concentrations in relation to birthweight, birth length, placental weight, and fetoplacental weight ratio (FPR) and stratified models by ABCG2 Q141K (C421A) genotype. Results: Overall 17% of participants expressed the reduced-function ABCG2 C421A variant (AA or AC). Placental cadmium concentrations were inversely associated with placental weight (β = −19.55; 95%CI: −37.06, −2.04) and trended towards higher FPR (β = 0.25; 95%CI: −0.01, 0.52) with stronger associations in 421A variant infants. Notably, higher placental cadmium concentrations in 421A variant infants were associated with reduced placental weight (β = −49.42; 95%CI: 98.87, 0.03), and higher FPR (β = 0.85, 95%CI: 0.18, 1.52), while higher urinary cadmium concentration was associated with longer birth length (β = 0.98; 95%CI: 0.37, 1.59), lower ponderal index (β = −0.09; 95%CI: 0.15, −0.03), and higher FPR (β = 0.42; 95%CI: 0.14, 0.71). Conclusions: Infants with reduced function ABCG2 polymorphisms may be particularly vulnerable to the developmental toxicity of cadmium as well as other xenobiotics that are BCRP substrates. Additional work examining the influence of placental transporters in environmental epidemiology cohorts is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115597
JournalEnvironmental research
StatePublished - May 15 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


  • Cadmium
  • Efflux transporter
  • Fetal growth
  • Metals
  • Placenta
  • Sex differences


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