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J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2018 Feb;31(3):278-283. doi: 10.1080/14767058.2017.1281907. Epub 2017 Feb 2.

Differential expression of cord blood neurotrophins in gestational diabetes: the impact of fetal growth abnormalities.

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a Department of Neonatology , National and Kapodistrian University of Athens , Athens , Greece.
b Laboratory of Clinical Biochemistry-Molecular Diagnostics, 2nd Department of Pediatrics , National and Kapodistrian University of Athens , Athens , Greece.



Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) may induce fetal macrosomia or growth restriction and is associated with later offspring neurodevelopmental disorders. We aimed to determine whether neurotrophins brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), nerve growth factor (NGF) and neurotrophin-4 (NT-4) are differentially expressed in cord blood samples at birth in large-for-gestational-age (LGA), intrauterine-growth-restricted (IUGR) and appropriate-for-gestational-age (AGA) offspring of diabetic mothers, as compared to AGA controls from non-diabetic mothers.


BDNF, NGF and NT-4 concentrations were prospectively determined in 80 cord blood samples from LGA (n = 15), IUGR (n = 12) and AGA (n = 33) diabetic, as well as from AGA normal (controls, n = 20) singleton full-term pregnancies.


Fetal BDNF concentrations considerably decreased in GDM, as compared with normal pregnancies [(b = -2.836, 95%CI -5.067 to (-0.604), p = 0.013)] and were higher in females (b = 2.298, 95%CI 0.357-4.238, p = 0.021). Cord blood NGF concentrations were lower in IUGR than AGA infants (p = 0.038).


BDNF is down-regulated in the fetus exposed to GDM, independently of the fetal growth pattern, probably representing a candidate mechanism underlying the association between maternal diabetes and later psychopathology. IUGR fetuses born to diabetic mothers present with NGF deficiency, which may contribute to their long-term neurodevelopmental sequelae. Gender-dependent differences in fetal BDNF may partly explain the higher prevalence of adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes following brain insults in male infants.


Gestational diabetes mellitus; fetal macrosomia; intrauterine growth restriction; neurotrophins; pregnancy

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