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Hum Hered. 2009;68(3):209-19. doi: 10.1159/000224641. Epub 2009 Jun 11.

Mother's genome or maternally-inherited genes acting in the fetus influence gestational age in familial preterm birth.

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Department of Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Miss, USA.



While multiple lines of evidence suggest the importance of genetic contributors to risk of preterm birth, the nature of the genetic component has not been identified. We perform segregation analyses to identify the best fitting genetic model for gestational age, a quantitative proxy for preterm birth.


Because either mother or infant can be considered the proband from a preterm delivery and there is evidence to suggest that genetic factors in either one or both may influence the trait, we performed segregation analysis for gestational age either attributed to the infant (infant's gestational age), or the mother (by averaging the gestational ages at which her children were delivered), using 96 multiplex preterm families.


These data lend further support to a genetic component contributing to birth timing since sporadic (i.e. no familial resemblance) and nontransmission (i.e. environmental factors alone contribute to gestational age) models are strongly rejected. Analyses of gestational age attributed to the infant support a model in which mother's genome and/or maternally-inherited genes acting in the fetus are largely responsible for birth timing, with a smaller contribution from the paternally-inherited alleles in the fetal genome.


Our findings suggest that genetic influences on birth timing are important and likely complex.

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