Molecular epidemiology of preterm delivery: methodology and challenges


Dr XiaobinWang Department of Pediatrics, Maternity 4, Boston University School of Medicine, 91 E. Concord Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA. E-mail:


Preterm delivery (PTD) appears to be a complex trait determined by both genetic and environmental factors. Few studies have examined genetic influence on PTD. The overall goal of our study is to examine major candidate genes of PTD and to test gene–environment interactions. Our study includes 500 preterm trios, including 500 preterm babies and their parents and 500 maternal age-matched term controls. We will perform the transmission/disequilibrium test (TDT) on candidate genes thought to be important in each of the four biological pathways of PTD: (1) decidual chorioamionotic inflammation: interleukin 1 (IL-1), IL-6, and tumour necrosis factor (TNF); (2) maternal and fetal stress: corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH); (3) uteroplacental vascular lesions: methylenetereahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR); and (4) susceptibility to environmental toxins: GSTM1, GSTT1, CYP1A1, CYP2D6, CYP2E1, NAT2, NQO1, ALDH2, and EPHX. We will also perform standard case-control analyses on the 500 preterm cases and 500 term controls to examine gene–environment interactions. The major environmental, nutritional and social factors as well as clinical variables known or suspected to be associated with PTD will be used to test for gene–environment interactions. This study integrates epidemiological and clinical data as well as genetic markers along major pathogenic pathways of PTD. The findings from this study should improve our understanding of genetic influences on PTD and gene–environment interactions.