Fetal genotype and maternal glucose have independent and additive effects on birth weight

Alice E. Hughes, Michael Nodzenski, Robin N. Beaumont, Octavious Talbot, Beverley M. Shields, Denise M. Scholtens, Bridget A. Knight, W. L.L. >William Lowe, Andrew T. Hattersley, Rachel M. Freathy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Maternal glycemia is a key determinant of birth weight, but recent large-scale genome-wide association studies demonstrated an important contribution of fetal genetics. It is not known whether fetal genotype modifies the impact of maternal glycemia or whether it acts through insulin-mediated growth. We tested the effects of maternal fasting plasma glucose (FPG) and a fetal genetic score for birth weight on birth weight and fetal insulin in 2,051 European mother-child pairs from the Exeter Family Study of Childhood Health (EFSOCH) and the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome (HAPO) study. The fetal genetic score influenced birth weight independently of maternal FPG and impacted growth at all levels of maternal glycemia. For mothers with FPG in the top tertile, the frequency of large for gestational age (birth weight ≥90th centile) was 31.1% for offspring with the highest tertile genetic score and only 14.0% for those with the lowest tertile genetic score. Unlike maternal glucose, the fetal genetic score was not associated with cord insulin or C-peptide. Similar results were seen for HAPO participants of non-European ancestry (n = 2,842 pairs). This work demonstrates that for any level of maternal FPG, fetal genetics has a major impact on fetal growth and acts predominantly through independent mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1024-1029
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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