Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) can cause short- and long-term complications to the mother and fetus. While the precise mechanisms in preserving glucose balance in a healthy pregnancy are unknown, various growth factors and hormones have been implicated or associated with GDM risk in humans or rodents, including prolactin, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), osteoprotegerin (OPG), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), and receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa B ligand (RANKL). We aimed to evaluate the relationship of these and other protein markers in women with GDM. In this cross-sectional study, blood samples were collected from pregnant women with GDM and with normal glucose tolerance (NGT) at the 24- to 32-week obstetrical visit, during the 1-h oral glucose challenge test or 3-h oral glucose tolerance test. Blood plasma was analyzed for RANKL, OPG, prolactin, tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), HGF, plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 (PAI-1), and TNFα. Forty-six women with NGT and 47 women with GDM were included (mean ± standard deviation maternal age 31.6 ± 5.7, mean ± standard deviation gestational age 28.1 ± 2.2 weeks). Groups were similar in terms of age, body mass index, gestational age, and race/ethnicity. Serum levels of OPG, prolactin, TRAIL, HGF, PAI-1, and TNFα were similar in both groups. RANKL was lower in GDM subjects (p = 0.019). Contrary to previous reports in the literature, we found a lower serum RANKL level in women with GDM. Further investigation is needed to determine whether there are suitable serum markers for diagnosing GDM or determining prognosis or severity.
Keywords: RANK ligand; gestational diabetes mellitus; hepatocyte growth factor; osteoprotegerin.