Expression of placental regulatory genes is associated with fetal growth

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The placenta is the principal organ regulating respiratory, nutritional, endocrine and metabolic functions on behalf of the developing fetus. Changes in gene expression patterns of placenta-specific genes may influence fetal growth. We profiled the expression of 17 genes related to placenta functioning in term placentas (n=677) to identify genes differentially expressed across birth weight categories [small (SGA), appropriate (AGA) and large (LGA) for gestational age]. ABCG2, CEBPB, CRH, GCM1, GPC3, INSL4, PGF and PLAC1 were inversely associated with LGA status, with odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) ranging from GCM1 (OR=0.44, 95% CI: 0.29, 0.70) to CRH (OR=0.73, 95% CI: 0.61, 0.88). NR3C1 was positively associated with LGA status (OR=2.33, 95% CI: 1.43, 3.78). PLAC1 (OR=0.66, 95% CI: 0.47, 0.92) and ABCG2 (OR=0.63, 95% CI: 0.44, 0.91) were additionally inversely associated with SGA status, and PGF was positively associated with SGA status (OR=1.59, 95% CI=1.08, 2.35). General trends were confirmed in an independent cohort (n=306). Given that aberrant fetal growth may have long-lasting effects, our results suggest the potential utility of placental gene expression profiles as potential early markers of disease onset later in life.

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