Risk of pre-eclampsia in patients with a maternal genetic predisposition to common medical conditions: a case-control study

BJOG. 2021 Jan;128(1):55-65. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.16441. Epub 2020 Sep 14.


Objective: To assess whether women with a genetic predisposition to medical conditions known to increase pre-eclampsia risk have an increased risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnancy.

Design: Case-control study.

Setting and population: Pre-eclampsia cases (n = 498) and controls (n = 1864) in women of European ancestry from five US sites genotyped on a cardiovascular gene-centric array.

Methods: Significant single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 21 traits in seven disease categories (cardiovascular, inflammatory/autoimmune, insulin resistance, liver, obesity, renal and thrombophilia) with published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were used to create a genetic instrument for each trait. Multivariable logistic regression was used to test the association of each continuous scaled genetic instrument with pre-eclampsia. Odds of pre-eclampsia were compared across quartiles of the genetic instrument and evaluated for significance.

Main outcome measures: Genetic predisposition to medical conditions and relationship with pre-eclampsia.

Results: An increasing burden of risk alleles for elevated diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and increased body mass index (BMI) were associated with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia (DBP, overall OR 1.11, 95% CI 1.01-1.21, P = 0.025; BMI, OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.00-1.20, P = 0.042), whereas alleles associated with elevated alkaline phosphatase (ALP) were protective (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.82-0.97, P = 0.008), driven primarily by pleiotropic effects of variants in the FADS gene region. The effect of DBP genetic loci was even greater in early-onset pre-eclampsia cases (at <34 weeks of gestation, OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.08-1.56, P = 0.005). For other traits, there was no evidence of an association.

Conclusions: These results suggest that the underlying genetic architecture of pre-eclampsia may be shared with other disorders, specifically hypertension and obesity.

Tweetable abstract: A genetic predisposition to increased diastolic blood pressure and obesity increases the risk of pre-eclampsia.

Keywords: Cardiovascular risk; genetic epidemiology; genetic predisposition to disease; genetic risk score; pre-eclampsia; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Hypertension
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Pre-Eclampsia / genetics*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • White People
  • Young Adult