Pregnant women with obesity are more likely to deliver infants who are large for gestational age (LGA). LGA is associated with increased perinatal morbidity and risk of developing metabolic disease later in life. However, the mechanisms underpinning fetal overgrowth remain to be fully established. Here, we identified maternal, placental, and fetal factors that are associated with fetal overgrowth in pregnant women with obesity. Maternal and umbilical cord plasma and placentas were collected from women with obesity delivering infants who were LGA (n=30) or appropriate for gestational age (AGA, n=21) at term. Maternal and umbilical cord plasma analytes were measured using multiplex sandwich assay and ELISA. Insulin/mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling activity was determined in placental homogenates. Amino acid transporter activity was measured in isolated syncytiotrophoblast microvillous membrane (MVM) and basal membrane (BM). Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) protein expression and signaling were measured in cultured primary human trophoblast (PHT) cells. Maternal plasma glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) was higher in LGA pregnancies and positively correlated to birthweight. Umbilical cord plasma insulin, C-peptide, and GLP-1 were increased in obese-large for gestational age (OB-LGA) infants. LGA placentas were larger but showed no change in insulin/mTOR signaling or amino acid transport activity. GLP-1R protein was expressed in the MVM isolated from human placenta. GLP-1R activation stimulated protein kinase alpha (PKA), extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1 and-2 (ERK1/2), and mTOR pathways in PHT cells. Our results suggest elevated maternal GLP-1 may drive fetal overgrowth in obese pregnant women. We speculate that maternal GLP-1 acts as a novel regulator of fetal growth by promoting placental growth and function.

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