Placental microRNAs relate to early childhood growth trajectories

Elizabeth M. Kennedy, Karen Hermetz, Amber Burt, Dong Pei, Devin C. Koestler, Ke Hao, Jia Chen, Diane Gilbert-Diamond, Usha Ramakrishnan, Margaret R. Karagas, Carmen J. Marsit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Poor placental function is a common cause of intrauterine growth restriction, which in turn is associated with increased risks of adverse health outcomes. Our prior work suggests that birthweight and childhood obesity-associated genetic variants functionally impact placental function and that placental microRNA are associated with birthweight. To address the influence of the placenta beyond birth, we assessed the relationship between placental microRNAs and early childhood growth. Methods: Using the SITAR package, we generated two parameters that describe individual weight trajectories of children (0–5 years) in the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study (NHBCS, n = 238). Using negative binomial generalized linear models, we identified placental microRNAs that relate to growth parameters (FDR < 0.1), while accounting for sex, gestational age at birth, and maternal parity. Results: Genes targeted by the six growth trajectory-associated microRNAs are enriched (FDR < 0.05) in growth factor signaling (TGF/beta: miR-876; EGF/R: miR-155, Let-7c; FGF/R: miR-155; IGF/R: Let-7c, miR-155), calmodulin signaling (miR-216a), and NOTCH signaling (miR-629). Conclusions: Growth-trajectory microRNAs target pathways affecting placental proliferation, differentiation and function. Our results suggest a role for microRNAs in regulating placental cellular dynamics and supports the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease hypothesis that fetal environment can have impacts beyond birth. Impact: We found that growth trajectory associated placenta microRNAs target genes involved in signaling pathways central to the formation, maintenance and function of placenta; suggesting that placental cellular dynamics remain critical to infant growth to term and are under the control of microRNAs.Our results contribute to the existing body of research suggesting that the placenta plays a key role in programming health in the offspring.This is the first study to relate molecular patterns in placenta, specifically microRNAs, to early childhood growth trajectory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-348
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2023


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