The Journal of nutrition

Arachidonic acid predominates in the membrane phosphoglycerides of the early and term human placenta.

PMID 16251612


The aim of this study was to determine whether the high concentration of arachidonic acid (AA) in term placentae accumulates during pregnancy or is an inherent characteristic of placental lipids. We investigated the lipid content and fatty acid composition of the human placental phospholipids at 2 gestational periods, early in pregnancy (8-14 wk, n = 48) and at term (38-41 wk of gestation, n = 19). The subjects were healthy, normotensive, and free of medical and obstetric complications. The lipid concentration of placentae increased from 0.8% in early gestation to 1.4% at term (P < 0.0001). The mean proportions of AA were lower in the choline (P < 0.05), inositol (P < 0.0001), and ethanolamine (P < 0.0001) phosphoglycerides of the term compared with the early placenta. In contrast, the proportions of the immediate precursor of AA, dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), were higher in the term placenta, particularly in the inositol and serine phosphoglycerides (P < 0.0001). In sphingomyelin, the percentage of lignoceric acid was increased and that of nervonic acid was reduced at term (P < 0.01). The dominance of AA, particularly in the early placenta, suggests that it has an important role for placental development, i.e., organogenesis and vascularization. There was no evidence of an accumulation of AA in the placenta toward term, which might be a trigger for parturition. In contrast, the increased proportion of DGLA (precursor of the vasorelaxant and anticoagulant prostaglandin E(1)) at term is more consistent with a profile favoring optimal blood flow to nourish the fetal growth spurt.

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Nervonic acid, ≥99% (capillary GC)
Nervonic acid, analytical standard