Preterm labour and delivery: a genetic predisposition


DonnaDizon-Townson University of Utah, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 50 North Medical Drive SOM Room 2B200, Salt Lake City, UT 84132, USA. E-mail:


Preterm delivery (PTD) complicates as many as 10% of pregnancies in the United States. Moreover, prematurity accounts for more than 70% of the consequent neonatal and infantile morbidity and mortality. Serious long-term complications include cerebral palsy, respiratory disease, blindness and deafness. Despite substantial basic scientific, translational and clinical investigation in recent years, the PTD rate (10%) and the low birthweight rate (7%) remain largely unchanged. Indeed, the very aetiology and pathophysiology of PTD remain unknown in most cases. In short, PTD continues to constitute a major clinical and public health challenge of the highest order, a circumstance further compounded by the controversy surrounding the efficacy of current therapeutic regimens. In an effort to address the relevant knowledge gap, we put forth the hypothesis that PTD results, at least in part, from a genetic predisposition. Evidence supporting the hypothesis that certain women have a genetic predisposition to deliver preterm is growing. Moreover, the discovery of a gene mutation predisposing to PTD would constitute a major breakthrough for future research into the biology, prediction, and therapy of preterm labour. Presented here is a discussion of the evidence to support a genetic predisposition to PTD, molecular techniques proposed to study the genetics of preterm labour, and plausible candidate genes that warrant further investigation.