To assess the global effect of preterm birth on fetal metabolism and maternal-fetal nutrient transfer, we used a mass spectrometric-based chemical phenotyping approach on cord blood obtained at the time of birth. We sampled umbilical venous, umbilical arterial, and maternal blood from mothers delivering very-low birth weight (VLBW, with a median gestational age and weight of 29 weeks, and 1210 g, respectively) premature or full-term (FT) neonates. In VLBW group, we observed a significant elevation in the levels and maternal-fetal gradients of butyryl-, isovaleryl-, hexanoyl- and octanoyl-carnitines, suggesting enhanced short- and medium chain fatty acid β-oxidation in human preterm feto-placental unit. The significant decrease in glutamine-glutamate in preterm arterial cord blood beside lower levels of amino acid precursors of Krebs cycle suggest increased glutamine utilization in the fast growing tissues of preterm fetus with a deregulation in placental glutamate-glutamine shuttling. Enhanced glutathione utilization is likely to account for the decrease in precursor amino acids (serine, betaine, glutamate and methionine) in arterial cord blood. An increase in both the circulating levels and maternal-fetal gradients of several polyamines in their acetylated form (diacetylspermine and acetylputrescine) suggests an enhanced polyamine metabolic cycling in extreme prematurity. Our metabolomics study allowed the identification of alterations in fetal energy, antioxidant defense, and polyamines and purines flux as a signature of premature birth.
- cord blood