Vitamin D insufficiency during pregnancy is widespread. The effects of active vitamin D on the human placenta in vivo are unknown. We test the hypotheses that 25(OH)D sufficiency (arbitrarily defined as 25(OH)D ≥32 ng/mL) modulates placental structure and function in vivo in a population of women whose offspring are at risk for childhood asthma, and that placental pathology is more common in offspring that evolve asthma at age 3. Pregnant volunteers in the St. Louis, MO, cohort of the Vitamin D Antenatal Asthma Reduction Trial (VDAART, NIH grant #HL091528) participated in a nested case–control study and consented for the study of placentas after delivery. Maternal concentrations of 25(OH)D were measured at trial entry and in the third trimester. The histopathology of the placentas from women with sufficient 25(OH)D, versus insufficient, showed no clinically significant differences, but morphometry revealed villi of women with sufficient third-trimester 25(OH)D had a higher villous surface density. Notably, analyses of transcripts, extracted from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded specimens, revealed higher expression of INTS9, vWF, MACC1, and ARMS2, and diminished expression of the CNTN5 genes in the insufficient group. A larger proportion of placentas showed chronic chorioamnionitis in offspring with versus without asthma at age 3. These findings suggest that maternal 25(OH)D insufficiency has a limited effect on human placental villous histopathology and morphometry, but attenuates a small number of placental gene expression profiles in this selected population. The association of placental chronic chorioamnionitis and offspring asthma is worthy of further study.
- Gene expression
- Vitamin D