Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and Their Effects on the Placenta, Pregnancy, and Child Development: a Potential Mechanistic Role for Placental Peroxisome Proliferator–Activated Receptors (PPARs)


Purpose of Review

This review summarizes studies highlighting perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and their effects on the placenta, pregnancy outcomes, and child health. It highlights human population-based associations as well as in vitro-based experimental data to inform an understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying these health effects. Among the mechanisms by which PFAS may induce toxicity is via their interaction with the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), nuclear receptors that regulate lipid metabolism and placental functions important to healthy pregnancies, as well as fetal and child development.

Recent Findings

In utero exposure to prevalent environmental contaminants such as PFAS is associated with negative health outcomes during pregnancy, birth outcomes, and later in life. Specifically, PFAS have been associated with increased incidence of gestational diabetes, childhood obesity, preeclampsia, and fetal growth restriction. In terms of placental molecular mechanisms underlying these associations, studies demonstrate that PFAS interfere with trophoblast lipid homeostasis, inflammation, and invasion. Moreover these effects could be mediated in part by the interaction between PFAS and PPARs, as well as other biological mechanisms.


This review summarizes how PFAS, critical environmental contaminants, may contribute to diseases of pregnancy as well as early and later child health.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Szilagyi, J.T., Avula, V. & Fry, R.C. Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and Their Effects on the Placenta, Pregnancy, and Child Development: a Potential Mechanistic Role for Placental Peroxisome Proliferator–Activated Receptors (PPARs). Curr Envir Health Rpt 7, 222–230 (2020).

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  • PPAR
  • Placenta
  • PFAS
  • Preeclampsia
  • In utero
  • Pregnancy
  • Development