Circulating milk fat globule-epidermal growth factor 8 levels are increased in pregnancy and gestational diabetes mellitus

J Diabetes Investig. 2017 Jul;8(4):571-581. doi: 10.1111/jdi.12616. Epub 2017 Feb 15.


Aims/introduction: Milk fat globule-epidermal growth factor 8 (MFG-E8) is the key mediator in anti-inflammatory responses that facilitate phagocytosis of apoptotic cells, and play an essential role in type 2 diabetes and pregnancy, both of which are under a low-grade inflammatory state. However, the action of MFG-E8 in gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is unclear. We measured plasma MFG-E8 levels in pregnancy and GDM for the first time, and elucidated possible relationships between its plasma levels and various metabolic parameters.

Materials and methods: Plasma MFG-E8 levels were quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in 66 women with GDM, 70 with normal pregnancy (p-NGT) and 44 healthy non-pregnant controls (CON), who were matched for age and body mass index. Inflammatory factors tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and C-reactive protein levels were measured, oral glucose tolerance test was carried out and β-cell function was evaluated.

Results: Plasma MFG-E8 levels were remarkably higher in p-NGT than in CON (P = 0.024), and were further elevated in GDM vs p-NGT (P = 0.016). MFG-E8 concentrations correlated positively with hemoglobin A1c, glucose levels and insulin resistance (homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance), and correlated inversely with TNF-α and insulin secretion evaluated by disposition indices in pregnancies. Fasting glucose levels, disposition index of first phase insulin secretion and TNF-α were independent predictors of MFG-E8 levels in pregnancies. Logistic regression analyses showed that women in the third tertile of MFG-E8 levels had a markedly elevated risk of GDM.

Conclusions: Circulating MFG-E8 levels are dramatically elevated in pregnancy, and are significantly higher in GDM vs p-NGT. MFG-E8 concentrations are significantly associated with TNF-α, fasting glucose levels, homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance and disposition indices. However, further studies are required to elucidate the regulation mechanism of MFG-E8 during pregnancy and GDM.

Keywords: Gestational diabetes mellitus; Inflammation; Milk-fat globule-epidermal growth factor 8.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Surface / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diabetes, Gestational / blood*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Milk Proteins / blood*
  • Pregnancy


  • Antigens, Surface
  • MFGE8 protein, human
  • Milk Proteins