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Clin Chem. 2010 Mar;56(3):409-16. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2009.136234. Epub 2009 Dec 3.

Neonatal salivary analysis reveals global developmental gene expression changes in the premature infant.

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  • 1Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Newborn Medicine, 800 Washington St., Box 44, Boston, MA 02111, USA.



There is an important need to develop noninvasive biomarkers to detect disease in premature neonates. Our objective was to determine if salivary genomic analysis provides novel information about neonatal expression of developmental genes.


Saliva (50-200 microL) was prospectively collected from 5 premature infants at 5 time points: before, starting, and advancing enteral nutrition; at the introduction of oral feeds; and at advanced oral feeds. Salivary RNA was extracted, amplified, and hybridized onto whole-genomic microarrays.


Bioinformatics analyses identified 9286 gene transcripts with statistically significant gene expression changes across individuals over time. Of these genes, 3522 (37.9%) were downregulated, and 5764 (62.1%) were upregulated. Gene expression changes were highly associated with developmental pathways. Significantly downregulated expression was seen in embryonic development, connective tissue development and function, hematologic system development and function, and survival of the organism (10(-14) < P < 10(-3)). Conversely, genes associated with behavior, nervous system development, tissue development, organ development, and digestive system development were significantly upregulated (10(-11) < P < 10(-2)).


Comparative genomic salivary analyses provide robust, comprehensive, real-time information regarding nearly all organs and tissues in the developing preterm infant. This innovative and noninvasive technique represents a new approach for monitoring health, disease, and development in this vulnerable patient population. By comparing these data in healthy infants with data from infants who develop medical complications, we expect to identify new biomarkers that will ultimately improve newborn care.

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