Alterations in expression of the imprinted gene PHLDA2 are linked to low birth weight in both humans and the mouse. However birth weight is a summary measure of fetal growth and provides little information on the growth rate of the fetus in early and late pregnancy. To examine the relation of PHLDA2 expression with rates of fetal growth and explore associations with the infant's body composition in early childhood, we measured PHLDA2 mRNA levels in the term placenta of 102 infants whose mothers were participating in the Southampton Women's Survey (SWS). Higher PHLDA2 expression was associated with a lower fetal femur growth velocity between 19 and 34 weeks gestation. In addition, higher placental PHLDA2 gene expression was associated with a lower child's bone mineral content at four years of age, measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. The results suggest that placental PHLDA2 may provide a biomarker for suboptimal skeletal growth in pregnancies uncomplicated by overt fetal growth restriction.
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