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INTRODUCTION: Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a major pregnancy metabolic disorder and is strongly linked with obesity. Kisspeptin is a hormone that increases several thousand-fold in the maternal circulation during human pregnancy, with placenta as its main source. Studies have suggested that kisspeptin regulates trophoblast invasion and promotes pancreatic insulin secretion and peripheral insulin sensitivity. METHODS: In a well-characterized cohort of pregnant South African women and molecular and histological techniques, this study explored the impact and interaction of maternal obesity and GDM on kisspeptin (KISS1) signalling in relation to placental morphology and maternal and neonatal parameters. RESULTS: We found that GDM had no effect on placental KISS1 and KISS1R (KISS1 receptor) mRNA and/or protein expression. However, obesity reduced placental KISS1R mRNA expression even though overall KISS1 protein abundance or localization was not different from the non-obese group. Maternal and cord circulating KISS1 concentrations did not vary with obesity or GDM, but maternal circulating KISS1 was positively correlated with placenta weight in non-GDM obese women, and negatively correlated with placental intervillous space volume in non-GDM non-obese women. Cord serum KISS1 was positively correlated with infant weight in GDM obese women, but negatively correlated with maternal BMI in the non-obese GDM group. Placental syncytiotrophoblast extracellular vesicles exhibited detectable KISS1 and its abundance was ∼50 % lower in those from obese GDM compared to non-GDM women. DISCUSSION: This study shows maternal obesity and GDM can modulate placental kisspeptin signalling and placental morphological development with potential pathophysiological implications for clinically-relevant pregnancy and perinatal outcomes.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





49 - 59


Fetus, Gestational diabetes mellitus, KISS1R, Kisspeptin, Obesity, Placenta, Pregnancy, Syncytiotrophoblast extracellular vesicles