Distinction between the effects of parental and fetal genomes on fetal growth

Nat Genet. 2021 Aug;53(8):1135-1142. doi: 10.1038/s41588-021-00896-x. Epub 2021 Jul 19.


Birth weight is a common measure of fetal growth that is associated with a range of health outcomes. It is directly affected by the fetal genome and indirectly by the maternal genome. We performed genome-wide association studies on birth weight in the genomes of the child and parents and further analyzed birth length and ponderal index, yielding a total of 243 fetal growth variants. We clustered those variants based on the effects of transmitted and nontransmitted alleles on birth weight. Out of 141 clustered variants, 22 were consistent with parent-of-origin-specific effects. We further used haplotype-specific polygenic risk scores to directly test the relationship between adult traits and birth weight. Our results indicate that the maternal genome contributes to increased birth weight through blood-glucose-raising alleles while blood-pressure-raising alleles reduce birth weight largely through the fetal genome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Weight / genetics*
  • Blood Glucose / genetics
  • Blood Pressure / genetics
  • Body Height / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / genetics*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Iceland
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide


  • Blood Glucose