Vitamin D insufficient levels during pregnancy and micronuclei frequency in peripheral blood T lymphocytes mothers and newborns (Rhea cohort, Crete)

Clin Nutr. 2017 Aug;36(4):1029-1035. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2016.06.016. Epub 2016 Jun 27.


Background & aims: Vitamin D deficiency is common among pregnant women and may be associated with several adverse health outcomes including cancer. Micronuclei frequency is a biomarker of early genetic effects and has been used to examine the association between genotoxic exposures and cancer. We examined maternal vitamin D levels during pregnancy in associations with micronuclei frequency in maternal blood and in cord blood.

Methods: 173 mothers and 171 newborns born between 2007 and 2008 in Heraklion (Crete, Greece) were included in the study. Between 14th and 18th weeks of gestation we collected information on maternal diet using food frequency questionnaires (FFQs). We measured maternal serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] between the first and second trimester of pregnancy. We estimated dietary vitamin D intake using information from FFQ. After delivery we collected cord blood and maternal peripheral blood. We used the cytokinesis-block micronucleus (CBMN) assay to assess the frequencies of micronucleated cells in binucleated T lymphocytes (MNBN).

Results: Maternal insufficient serum levels of 25(OH)D (<50 nmol/L) during pregnancy were associated with increased MNBN frequency in cord blood [IRR = 1.32 (95%CI: 1.00, 1.72)]. This increase was higher for newborns with birth weight above the third quartile [≥3.500 kg; IRR = 2.21 (1.26, 3.89)]. Similarly, low levels of dietary vitamin D were associated with increased MNBN frequency in cord blood [middle tertile IRR = 1.08 (0.78, 1.47), lower tertile IRR = 1.51 (1.06, 2.14)]. Insufficient levels of vitamin D were not associated with MNBN in mothers.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy increases genotoxic risks in newborns. The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency globally is high and it is important to further investigate whether vitamin D supplementation or similar interventions during pregnancy could prevent DNA damage at early stages of life.

Keywords: Childhood cancer; Genotoxicity; In utero exposures; Micronuclei; Mother–child cohort; Vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • Birth Weight
  • Cohort Studies
  • DNA Damage
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Greece / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / pathology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / pathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D