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J Dev Orig Health Dis. 2010 Oct;1(5):310-8. doi: 10.1017/S204017441000036X.

The interleukins IL-6 and IL-1Ra: a mediating role in the associations between BMI and birth weight?

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1Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
2Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National Resource Centre for Women's Health, Oslo University Hospital Rikshospitalet, Oslo, Norway.
3Department of Biostatistics, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
4Section of Specialized Endocrinology, Department of Endocrinology, Oslo University Hospital Rikshospitalet, Oslo, Norway.


The biological mechanisms in the association between maternal body mass index (BMI) and birth weight are not well understood, but are likely to involve maternal plasma glucose levels and nutrient transport across the placenta, both important modulators of fetal growth. Adipose tissue contributes to circulating levels of interleukins that may affect glucose metabolism and possibly also placental transport of nutrients. We investigated possible mediating roles of Interleukin 6 (IL-6) and Interleukin 1 Receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) in 208 pregnant women. Known and hypothesized dependencies between BMI in early pregnancy and fasting glucose, IL-1Ra and IL-6 at gestational weeks 30-32, and birth weight were specified in a path diagram. Standardized regression coefficients, expressing direct, indirect and total effects, were estimated by Bayesian path analysis. Mean (s.d.) BMI was 24.9 kg/m2 (4.2) and mean (s.d.) birth weight 3748 g (454). The total effect of BMI on birth weight was 0.24 (95% credibility interval (CrI) [0.12, 0.36]). The direct effect of IL-1Ra on birth weight was not statistically significant, but significant effects of BMI on IL-1Ra (0.61, 95% CrI [0.51, 0.72]), of IL-1Ra on fasting glucose (0.17, 95% CrI [0.01, 0.34]) and of fasting glucose on birth weight (0.14, 95% CrI [0.01, 0.27]) implied an indirect pathway from BMI via IL-1Ra on birth weight. Approximately 20% of the effect of BMI on birth weight was mediated through IL-1Ra. For IL-6, no such effects were found. Our results indicate that IL-1Ra may be a mediator in the association between BMI and birth weight.


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