Maternal post-absorptive leucine kinetics during late pregnancy in US women with HIV taking antiretroviral therapy: A cross-sectional pilot study

W. Todd Cade, Gautam K. Singh, Mark R. Holland, Dominic N. Reeds, E. Turner Overton, Nancy Cibulka, Karen Bahow, Rachel Presti, Andrea Stephens, Alison G. Cahill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Despite the success of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, infants exposed to cART in utero frequently are born smaller and have mild cardiac abnormalities. The mechanisms responsible for lower birth weight and cardiac abnormalities in children exposed to cART are unclear but could be related to dysregulation of maternal amino acid metabolism during pregnancy. Previous data in HIV(-women have shown a relationship between abnormal maternal protein metabolism during pregnancy and low infant birth weight and animal data demonstrate a relationship between altered maternal protein metabolism and increased risk for offspring cardiovascular abnormalities. Objective: The objectives of this study were to: 1) characterize post-absorptive maternal leucine kinetics during late pregnancy and 2) examine the relationships between maternal leucine kinetics and offspring birth weight and cardiac function. Design: Post-absorptive maternal leucine kinetics (evaluated by using stable isotope tracer methodology) in 16 HIV(+) women receiving cART and 14 HIV(-US women during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy were compared. Relationships between post-absorptive maternal leucine kinetics, cardiac function (echocardiography) and birth weight were statistically examined. Results: Maternal plasma leucine concentration (HIV(-): 82.8 ± 10.7 vs. HIV(+): 72.3 ± 13.5 μM, p = 0.06) and leucine oxidation rate (HIV(-): 6.1 ± 1.6 vs. HIV(+): 4.9 ± 1.8 μmol/kgBW/min, p = 0.03) were lower in HIV+ women compared to controls. Total leucine turnover rate, non-oxidative leucine disposal rate and post-absorptive maternal glucose and palmitate kinetics did not differ between groups. Left ventricular fractional shortening tended to be lower in children born to HIV(+) compared to controls (HIV(-): 42 ± 1 vs. HIV+: 36 ± 5%, p = 0.08) and associated with lower maternal plasma leucine concentration (= 0.43, p = 0.08). Conclusions: Preliminary results indicate that post-absorptive maternal leucine metabolism during late pregnancy is mildly altered in HIV+ US women taking cART. The clinical significance of maternal leucine metabolism on adverse infant outcomes is unclear and should be further explored in more expansive studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e140-e146
JournalClinical Nutrition ESPEN
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Amino acid
  • HIV
  • Metabolism
  • Nutrition
  • Pregnancy


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