The effect of intrauterine growth on leukocyte telomere length at birth

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2019 Dec;32(23):3948-3953. doi: 10.1080/14767058.2018.1479392. Epub 2018 Jun 6.


Objective: Telomeres are specialized nucleoprotein structures located at the ends of chromosomes, which play a crucial role in genomic stability. Telomere shortening has been proposed as a biomarker for the onset of age-related diseases. This study aimed to determine whether restricted or increased intrauterine growth affects leukocyte telomere length (LTL) at birth. Materials and methods: One hundred sixty-five (n = 165) full-term neonates participated in the study. Fetuses were classified as intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR, n = 21), large-for-gestational-age (LGA, n = 15), or appropriate-for-gestational-age (AGA, n = 129), based on customized birth-weight standards. Mixed arteriovenous cord blood samples were collected for isolation of leukocyte DNA. The LTL was measured using multiplex monochrome quantitative real-time PCR and telomeric restriction fragments through Southern blot analysis (terminal restriction fragment [TRF]). Results: Despite differences among groups in birth weight, length and head circumference, LTL did not differ among AGA (6.78 ± 0.58), IUGR (10.54 ± 1.80), and LGA (11.95 ± 2.42) neonates (p = .098). Cord blood IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 concentrations were higher in the LGA group. LTL positively correlated with birth length (r = 0.176, p = .032). Conclusions: Intrauterine growth does not seem to affect LTL at birth. Further studies, comprising a larger sample size of IUGR, LGA, and AGA neonates, are required to determine whether growth at birth influences LTL.

Keywords: Appropriate-for-gestational-age neonates; developmental origins of health and disease; intrauterine growth restriction; large-for-gestational-age neonates.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / cytology*
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism*
  • Fetal Development / genetics*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / blood
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / genetics
  • Fetal Macrosomia / blood
  • Fetal Macrosomia / genetics
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age / blood
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age / metabolism
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Leukocytes / pathology
  • Male
  • Parturition* / blood
  • Parturition* / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Telomere / genetics*
  • Telomere / metabolism
  • Telomere Homeostasis / physiology