Abnormal patterns of fetal and infant growth have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood. Catch-up growth during the first year of life has been associated with a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus, whereas a lack of catch-up growth tracks with a risk of hypertension. The role of genetic factors influencing both growth and blood pressure have not been explored.
We genotyped cord blood samples from 530 singleton, Caucasian, uncomplicated pregnancies, drawn from a larger cohort of 1650 pregnancies, and related polymorphism in the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) gene (alleles insertion (I) or deletion (D)) with measures of size at birth and at age of 1 year.
ACE genotype did not significantly influence size at birth, although there was a greater proportion of individuals with the D/D genotype born with a birth weight less than the 10th centile (P = 0.004). The ACE I/I genotype was significantly associated with higher weight (p = 0.001), body mass index (p = 0.001) and mid arm circumference (p = 0.001) at 1 year of age compared to the ACE D/D and I/D genotypes. Individuals with the I/I genotype displayed catch-up (gain from birth size of ≥0.6 Standard Deviation Score) in weight (p = 0.04), body mass index (p = 0.03) and mid arm circumference (p = 0.03) compared to the D/D group, the majority of which showed no change or catch-down. The I/D genotype was distributed equally across the catch up/catch down/no change categories. The effect was more marked in males, but ACE genotype and sex of the infant contributed independently to mid arm circumference measurements and there was no interaction between the two. There was no effect of maternal or paternal ACE genotype on birth size. In a multiple linear regression model ACE genotype, socioeconomic status and sex of the infant explained 10.9% of the variance in body mass index SDS at 1 year of age.
We conclude that the ACE I/I genotype is associated with a higher weight and body mass index SDS at 1 year of age, along with catch-up in terms of these measures from birth to 1 year. The D/D genotype is associated with a greater proportion of babies, born at term, that at small for gestational age. These results suggest that due consideration should be given to the underlying genotype of an individual when evaluating the association of early human growth with the development of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The observation of independent effects of genotype, sex of the individual and socioeconomic status on postnatal growth suggests the need to develop methodologies for the integration of genetic and environmental factors in causality modelling.