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Laura Schulz

Adjunct Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Associate Professor of Ob, Gyn, and Women’s Health
PhD, 2002 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Office: N625A Health Sciences Center
Phone: 573-884-1408
Additional: Website
Headshot of Laura Schulz


Research summary

Mechanisms by which maternal physiology influences development of placenta.

Research description

The placenta of eutherian mammals is formed by interactions between two organisms, the mother and fetus. It is responsible for providing nutrients, gas exchange, and growth factors needed by the growing fetus and is therefore a major determinant of fetal growth and development. When placental development is compromised it can result in intrauterine growth restriction or even pre-eclampsia, in which barriers to maternal-fetal exchange result in maternal hyptertension. Furthermore, changes in placental function can alter fetal development in ways that affect the future adult health of the fetus, a phenomenon known as the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD).

The focus of our laboratory is the development of the placenta, and how that development is affected by changes in the maternal environment, particularly in food availability. We are particularly interested in exploring the role of leptin signaling in this process. Leptin is a peptide hormone produced mainly by adipose tissue that acts as an indicator of energy reserves. We are studying the role of leptin in placental development by conducting food restriction studies in mice and by using transgenic mice. Some of these mice are being used to explore the long-term consequences of placental changes for adult health, particularly obesity. We also utilize normal and transgenic mouse placental trophoblast stem cells as a model system in which to explore placental cell differentiation. Finally, in collaboration with colleagues in Animal Sciences and Ob/Gyn, we are using stem cell models to study human trophoblast differentiation to better understand causes of pre-eclampsia.

Select Publications

Select Publications

Sheridan, M.A., Yang, Y., Jain, A., Lyons, A.S., Yang, P., Brahmasani, S.R., Dai, A., Tian, Y., Ellersieck, M.R., Tuteja, G., Schust, D.J., Schulz, L.C., Ezashi, T., Michael Roberts, R. Early onset preeclampsia in a model for human placental trophoblast (2019) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116 (10), pp. 4336-4345. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1816150116

Talton, O.O., Bates, K., Salazar, S.R., Ji, T., Schulz, L.C. Lean maternal hyperglycemia alters offspring lipid metabolism and susceptibility to diet-induced obesity in mice† (2019) Biology of reproduction, 100 (5), pp. 1356-1369. DOI: 10.1093/biolre/ioz009

Karvas, R.M., Yang, Y., Ezashi, T., Schust, D.J., Roberts, R.M., Schulz, L.C. ITGA1 is upregulated in response to oxygen over time in a BMP4 model of trophoblast (2018) Molecular Reproduction and Development, 85 (8-9), pp. 738-739. DOI: 10.1002/mrd.23047

Mao, J., Pennington, K.A., Talton, O.O., Schulz, L.C., Sutovsky, M., Lin, Y., Sutovsky, P. In Utero and Postnatal Exposure to High Fat, High Sucrose Diet Suppressed Testis Apoptosis and Reduced Sperm Count (2018) Scientific Reports, 8 (1), art. no. 7622, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-25950-3

Pennington, K.A., van der Walt, N., Pollock, K.E., Talton, O.O., Schulz, L.C. Effects of acute exposure to a high-fat, high-sucrose diet on gestational glucose tolerance and subsequent maternal health in mice (2017) Biology of Reproduction, 96 (2), art. no. bio144543, pp. 435-445.

Van Gronigen Caesar G, Dale JM, Osman EY, Garcia ML, Lorson CL, Schulz LC: Placental development in a mouse model of spinal muscular atrophy. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 2016, 470(1):82-87.

Roberts, R.M., Green, J.A., Schulz, L.C. The evolution of the placenta (2016) Reproduction, 152 (5), pp. R179-R189.

Pennington, K.A., Ramirez-Perez, F.I., Pollock, K.E., Talton, O.O., Foote, C.A., Reyes-Aldasoro, C.C., Wu, H.-H., Ji, T., Martinez-Lemus, L.A., Schulz, L.C. Maternal hyperleptinemia is associated with male offspring's altered vascular function and structure in mice (2016) PLoS ONE, 11 (5), art. no. e0155377,

Talton, O.O., Pennington, K.A., Pollock, K.E., Bates, K., Ma, L., Ellersieck, M.R., Schulz, L.C. Maternal hyperleptinemia improves offspring insulin sensitivity in mice (2016) Endocrinology, 157 (7), pp. 2636-2648.

Oestreich, A.K., Kamp, W.M., McCray, M.G., Carleton, S.M., Karasseva, N., Lenz, K.L., Jeong, Y., Daghlas, S.A., Yao, X., Wang, Y., Pfeiffer, F.M., Ellersieck, M.R., Schulz, L.C., Phillips, C.L. Decreasing maternal myostatin programs adult offspring bone strength in a mouse model of osteogenesis imperfecta (2016) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113 (47), pp. 13522-13527

Harper JL, Caesar GA, Pennington KA, Davis JW, Schulz LC: Placental changes caused by food restriction during early pregnancy in mice are reversible. Reproduction 2015, 150(3):165-172.

Pollock KE, Stevens D, Pennington KA, Thaisrivongs R, Kaiser J, Ellersieck MR, Miller DK, Schulz LC: Hyperleptinemia during pregnancy decreases adult weight of offspring and is associated with increased offspring locomotor activity in mice. Endocrinology 2015, 156(10):3777-3790.

PrabhuDas M, Bonney E, Caron K, Dey S, Erlebacher A, Fazleabas A, Fisher S, Golos T, Matzuk M, McCune JM et al: Immune mechanisms at the maternal-fetal interface: Perspectives and challenges. Nature Immunology 2015, 16(4):328-334.

Yang Y, Adachi K, Sheridan MA, Alexenko AP, Schust DJ, Schulz LC, Ezashi T, Roberts RM: Heightened potency of human pluripotent stem cell lines created by transient BMP4 exposure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015, 112(18):E2337-E2346.

Yang P, Dai A, Alexenko AP, Liu Y, Stephens AJ, Schulz LC, Schust DJ, Roberts RM, Ezashi T: Abnormal oxidative stress responses in fibroblasts from preeclampsia infants. PLoS ONE 2014, 9(7).

Roberts RM, Loh KM, Amita M, Bernardo AS, Adachi K, Alexenko AP, Schust DJ, Schulz LC, Telugu BPVL, Ezashi T et al: Differentiation of trophoblast cells from human embryonic stem cells: To be or not to be? Reproduction 2014, 147(5).

Stephens AJ, Karvas RM, Adachi K, Schulz LC, Schust DJ: Modeling preeclampsia: An emerging role for stem cells. NeoReviews 2014, 15(12):e526-e536.

Telugu BP, Adachi K, Schlitt JM, Ezashi T, Schust DJ, Roberts RM, Schulz LC: Comparison of extravillous trophoblast cells derived from human embryonic stem cells and from first trimester human placentas. Placenta 2013, 34(7):536-543.

Amita M, Adachi K, Alexenko AP, Sinha S, Schust DJ, Schulz LC, Roberts RM, Ezashi T: Complete and unidirectional conversion of human embryonic stem cells to trophoblast by BMP4. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2013, 110(13).

Schulz LC, Schlitt MJ, Caesar G, Pennington AK: Leptin and the placental response to maternal food restriction during early pregnancy in mice. Biology of Reproduction 2012, 87(5).

Pennington KA, Harper JL, Sigafoos AN, Beffa LM, Carleton SM, Phillips CL, Schulz LC: Effect of food restriction and leptin supplementation on fetal programming in mice. Endocrinology 2012, 153(9):4556-4567.

Schlitt JM, Schulz LC: The source of leptin, but not leptin depletion in response to food restriction, changes during early pregnancy in mice. Endocrine 2012, 41(2):227-235.

Pennington KA, Schlitt JM, Schulz LC: Isolation of primary mouse trophoblast cells and trophoblast invasion assay. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE 2012(59).

Pennington KA, Schlitt JM, Jackson DL, Schulz LC, Schust DJ: Preeclampsia: Multiple approaches for a multifactorial disease. DMM Disease Models and Mechanisms 2012, 5(1):9-18.

Honors & Awards

Selected honors and awards

American Society for Reproductive Medicine New Investigator Award 2009

New Fly species, Thereva clamonae, named 2005