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PLoS One. 2010 Aug 25;5(8):e12391. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012391.

Racial differences in genetic and environmental risk to preterm birth.

Author information

1
Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, Virginia, United States of America. tpyork@vcu.edu

Abstract

Preterm birth is more prevalent in African Americans than European Americans and contributes to 3.4 times more African American infant deaths. Models of social inequity do not appreciably account for this marked disparity and molecular genetic studies have yet to characterize whether allelic differences that exist between races contribute to this gap. In this study, biometrical genetic models are applied to a large mixed-race sample consisting of 733,339 births to measure the extent that heritable factors and environmental exposures predict the timing of birth and explain differences between racial groups. Although we expected significant differences in mean gestational age between racial groups, we did not anticipate the variance of gestational age in African Americans (sigma(2) = 7.097) to be nearly twice that of European Americans (sigma(2) = 3.764). Our results show that this difference in the variance of gestational age can largely be attributed to environmental sources; which were 3.1 times greater in African Americans. Specifically, environmental factors that change between pregnancies, versus exposures that influence all pregnancies within a family, are largely responsible for the increased reproductive heterogeneity observed in African American mothers. Although the contribution of both fetal and maternal genetic factors differed between race categories, genetic studies may best be directed to understanding the differences in the socio-cultural sources of this heterogeneity, and their possible interaction with genetic differences within and between races. This study provides a comprehensive description of the relative genetic and environmental contributions to racial differences in gestational age.

PMID:
20811627
PMCID:
PMC2928274
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0012391
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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