Gestational diabetes mellitus: A syndrome with phenotypic and genotypic heterogeneity

N. Freinkel, B. E. Metzger, R. L. Phelps, J. L. Simpson, A. O. Martin, R. Radvany, C. Ober, S. L. Dooley, R. O. Depp, A. Belton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


One hundred ninety-nine gravida with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) defined as 'carbohydrate intolerance of varying severity with onset or first recognition during pregnancy' have been stratified into subgroups on the basis of fasting plasma glucose and evaluated for further phenotypic and genotypic heterogeneity. A significantly greater proportion of the women in all our groups were older and heavier than in a 'control' population of 148 consecutive gravida with documented normal oral glucose tolerance. After correction for age and weight by covariate analysis, absolute insulinopenia in response to oral glucose could be demonstrated in all GDM groups, although exceptions were present in each. The incidence of diabetes in the mothers of our patients with GDM was 8-fold greater than in controls; the incidence in fathers did not deviate from control patterns. HLA-DR3 and DR4 antigens were more frequently present in GDM and the increase was statistically significant in blacks. At the time of diagnosis, cytoplasmic islet cell antibodies (ICA) were significantly more common in GDM associated with elevated fasting plasma glucose than in controls; the frequency of ICA was 18.4% (7/38) in women with fasting plasma glucose ≥130 mg/dl. Our findings indicate that GDM entails genotypic as well as phenotypic diversity and may include patients with slowly-evolving Type I diabetes mellitus, as well as patients with Type II diabetes mellitus, and women with asymptomatic diabetes which antedated the pregnancy (i.e. pregestational diabetes mellitus). Appreciation of this heterogeneity should be incorporated into any evaluation of intervention strategies for women with GDM or into prognoses concerning their postpartum metabolic status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-430
Number of pages4
JournalHormone and Metabolic Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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