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1.  Investigation of genetic risk factors for chronic adult diseases for association with preterm birth 
Human genetics  2012;132(1):10.1007/s00439-012-1223-x.
Preterm birth (PTB) is the leading cause of infant mortality. PTB pathophysiology overlaps with those of adult cardiovascular, immune and metabolic disorders (CIMD), with mechanisms including inflammation, immunotolerance, thrombosis, and nutrient metabolism. Whereas many genetic factors for CIMD have been identified, progress in PTB has lagged. We hypothesized that highly validated genetic risk factors for CIMD may also be associated with PTB. We conducted case–control study of four female cohorts with spontaneous PTB (n = 673) versus term (n = 1119). Of 35 SNPs genotyped, there were 13 statistically significant associations (P<0.05), which were more than expected (binomial test; P = 0.02). In US White (307 cases/342 controls), the G allele of HLA-DQA1 (A/G) rs9272346 was protective for PTBin the initial discovery cohort (P = 0.02; OR = 0.65; 95 % CI 0.46, 0.94). This protective association replicated (P = 0.02; OR = 0.85; 95 % CI 0.75, 0.97) nominally in the Danish Cohort (883 cases, 959 controls), but lost significance upon multiple testing correction. We observed more statistically significant associations than expected, suggesting that chance is an unlikely explanation for one or more of the associations. Particularly, a protective association of the G allele of HLA-DQA1 was found in two independent cohorts, and in previous studies, this same allele was found to protect against type-1-diabetes (meta-analysis P value 5.52 × 10−219). Previous investigations have implicated HLA phenotypic variation in recurrent fetal loss and in chronic chorioamnionitis. Given the limited sample size in his study, we suggest larger studies to further investigate possible HLA genetic involvement in PTB.
PMCID: PMC3864772  PMID: 22972380
2.  An Evolutionary Genomic Approach to Identify Genes Involved in Human Birth Timing 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(4):e1001365.
Coordination of fetal maturation with birth timing is essential for mammalian reproduction. In humans, preterm birth is a disorder of profound global health significance. The signals initiating parturition in humans have remained elusive, due to divergence in physiological mechanisms between humans and model organisms typically studied. Because of relatively large human head size and narrow birth canal cross-sectional area compared to other primates, we hypothesized that genes involved in parturition would display accelerated evolution along the human and/or higher primate phylogenetic lineages to decrease the length of gestation and promote delivery of a smaller fetus that transits the birth canal more readily. Further, we tested whether current variation in such accelerated genes contributes to preterm birth risk. Evidence from allometric scaling of gestational age suggests human gestation has been shortened relative to other primates. Consistent with our hypothesis, many genes involved in reproduction show human acceleration in their coding or adjacent noncoding regions. We screened >8,400 SNPs in 150 human accelerated genes in 165 Finnish preterm and 163 control mothers for association with preterm birth. In this cohort, the most significant association was in FSHR, and 8 of the 10 most significant SNPs were in this gene. Further evidence for association of a linkage disequilibrium block of SNPs in FSHR, rs11686474, rs11680730, rs12473870, and rs1247381 was found in African Americans. By considering human acceleration, we identified a novel gene that may be associated with preterm birth, FSHR. We anticipate other human accelerated genes will similarly be associated with preterm birth risk and elucidate essential pathways for human parturition.
Author Summary
The control of birth timing in humans is the greatest unresolved question in reproductive biology, and preterm birth is the most important medical issue in maternal and child health. To begin to address this critical problem, we test the hypothesis that genes accelerated in their rate of evolution in humans, as compared with other primates and mammals, are involved in birth timing. We first show that human gestational length has been altered relative to other non-human primates and mammals. Using allometric scaling, we demonstrate that human gestation is shorter than predicted based upon gestational length in other mammalian species. Next, we show that genes with rate acceleration in humans—in coding or regulatory regions—are plausible candidates to be involved in birth timing. Finally, we find that polymorphisms in the human accelerated gene (FSHR), not before implicated in the timing for birth, may alter risk for human preterm birth. Our understanding of pathways for birth timing in humans is limited, yet its elucidation remains one of the most important issues in biology and medicine. The evolutionary genetic approach that we apply should be applicable to many human disorders and assist other investigators studying preterm birth.
PMCID: PMC3077368  PMID: 21533219
3.  Primate-specific evolution of noncoding element insertion into PLA2G4C and human preterm birth 
BMC Medical Genomics  2010;3:62.
The onset of birth in humans, like other apes, differs from non-primate mammals in its endocrine physiology. We hypothesize that higher primate-specific gene evolution may lead to these differences and target genes involved in human preterm birth, an area of global health significance.
We performed a comparative genomics screen of highly conserved noncoding elements and identified PLA2G4C, a phospholipase A isoform involved in prostaglandin biosynthesis as human accelerated. To examine whether this gene demonstrating primate-specific evolution was associated with birth timing, we genotyped and analyzed 8 common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in PLA2G4C in US Hispanic (n = 73 preterm, 292 control), US White (n = 147 preterm, 157 control) and US Black (n = 79 preterm, 166 control) mothers.
Detailed structural and phylogenic analysis of PLA2G4C suggested a short genomic element within the gene duplicated from a paralogous highly conserved element on chromosome 1 specifically in primates. SNPs rs8110925 and rs2307276 in US Hispanics and rs11564620 in US Whites were significant after correcting for multiple tests (p < 0.006). Additionally, rs11564620 (Thr360Pro) was associated with increased metabolite levels of the prostaglandin thromboxane in healthy individuals (p = 0.02), suggesting this variant may affect PLA2G4C activity.
Our findings suggest that variation in PLA2G4C may influence preterm birth risk by increasing levels of prostaglandins, which are known to regulate labor.
PMCID: PMC3017005  PMID: 21184677
4.  Fractional Excretion of Tumor Necrosis Factor-α in Women With Severe Preeclampsia 
Obstetrics and gynecology  2008;112(1):93-100.
Pro-inflammatory cytokines of placental or systemic origin are thought to play a central role in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia. We sought to estimate the fractional excretion of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in relationship to proteinuria in women with severe preeclampsia.
In a cross-sectional study, we evaluated the serum and urine levels of TNF-α in 45 women diagnosed with severe preeclampsia (mean±SEM, gestational age: 29.1±0.5 weeks). Forty-five healthy pregnant control women matched for parity, maternal and gestational age at recruitment (30.1±0.4 weeks) served as control. Urinary concentrations were normalized to creatinine. The fractional excretion of the TNF-α was interpreted in relationship to those of total proteins and that of soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFlt-1).
We found that preeclamptic women had significantly higher serum TNF-α concentrations compared to controls (mean ± SEM, preeclampsia: 1.39±0.09 vs. control: 0.93±0.07 pg/mL, P<0.001). In contrast, urinary levels of TNF-α were significantly decreased in preeclampsia compared with healthy controls (median [interquartile range], preeclampsia: 0.26 [0.10–0.91] vs. control: 0.58 [0.21–1.29] pg/mg creatinine, P=0.003), even though the hypertensive women had higher levels of proteinuria. In contrast to sFlt-1, urinary TNF-α did not correlate with the degree of proteinuria. Additionally, in preeclampsia the fractional excretion of TNF-α was significantly lower (preeclampsia: 1.92 [0.46–4.20] vs. control: 7.2 [2.44–12.07] percent, P<0.001).
The fractional excretion of TNF-α is significantly reduced in women with severe preeclampsia, despite proteinuria. The decreased clearance and altered renal excretion of this cytokine may contribute to the exaggerated inflammatory response observed in preeclampsia.
PMCID: PMC2670937  PMID: 18591313
5.  Placental expression of ceruloplasmin in pregnancies complicated by severe preeclampsia 
There is consensus that ischemia/reperfusion injury associated with preeclampsia (PE) promotes both placental damage and the release of factors leading to maternal endothelium dysfunction, a hallmark of this potentially life-threatening syndrome. These factors include plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) and soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFlt-1). The goal of this study was to further characterize placental factors involved in the pathophysiology of PE. Thus, DNA microarray gene profiling was utilized to identify mRNA differentially regulated in placentas from women with severe PE compared to both preterm (PC) and term control (TC) groups. Microarray studies detected an upregulation of mRNA for ceruloplasmin, a copper-containing iron transport protein with antioxidant ferroxidase properties, in PE compared to PC and TC placentas, respectively. Quantitative real-time PCR confirmed these results by demonstrating significant increases in ceruloplasmin mRNA in PE vs PC and TC placentas. Supporting previous reports, the expression of sFlt-1 and PAI-1 were also upregulated in PE placentas. Immunohistochemistry localized ceruloplasmin to the intervillous space in PE and PC placentas, whereas stronger syncytial staining was noted in PE. Western blotting confirmed a significant increase in ceruloplasmin levels in placental tissue in PE compared to PC groups. PCR identified the presence of mRNA for ceruloplasmin in primary cultures of syncytiotrophoblasts, but not villous-derived fibroblasts, suggesting that syncytium is the site of ceruloplasmin synthesis in placenta. Hypoxic treatment (1% O2) of syncytiotrophoblasts enhanced levels of ceruloplasmin mRNA approximately 25-fold, a significantly greater upregulation than that noted for PAI-1 and sFlt-1, suggesting that enhanced ceruloplasmin expression is a sensitive marker of syncytial hypoxia. We suggest that syncytial ceruloplasmin and its associated ferroxidase activity, induced by the hypoxia accompanying severe PE, is important in an endogenous cellular program to mitigate the damaging effects of subsequent reperfusion injury at this site.
PMCID: PMC2682720  PMID: 18679377
placenta; preeclampsia; ceruloplasmin; hypoxia; oxygen radicals
6.  Intercellular adhesion molecule-1 expression in human endometrium: implications for long term progestin only contraception 
Neutrophils infiltrate the endometrium pre-menstrually and after long-term progestin only-contraceptive (LTPOC) treatment. Trafficking of neutrophils involves endothelial cell-expressed intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM-1). Previous studies observed that ICAM-1 was immunolocalized to the endothelium of endometrial specimens across the menstrual cycle, but disagreed as to whether extra-endothelial cell types express ICAM-1 and whether ICAM-1 expression varies across the menstrual cycle.
Endometrial biopsies were obtained from women across the menstrual cycle and from those on LTPOC treatment (either Mirena or Norplant). The biopsies were formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded with subsequent immunohistochemical staining for ICAM-1.
The current study found prominent ICAM-1 staining in the endometrial endothelium that was of equivalent intensity in different blood vessel types irrespective of the steroidal or inflammatory endometrial milieu across the menstrual cycle and during LTPOC therapy. Unlike the endothelial cells, the glands were negative and the stromal cells were weakly positive for ICAM immunostaining.
The results of the current study suggest that altered expression of ICAM-1 by endothelial cells does not account for the influx of neutrophils into the premenstrual and LTPOC-derived endometrium. Such neutrophil infiltration may depend on altered expression of neutrophil chemoattractants.
PMCID: PMC1403781  PMID: 16445864
7.  Supracervical hysterectomy versus total abdominal hysterectomy: perceived effects on sexual function 
BMC Women's Health  2002;2:1.
Our investigation sought to compare changes in sexual function following supracervical hysterectomy (SCH) and total abdominal hysterectomy (TAH).
A retrospective chart review was performed to identify all patients who underwent supracervical hysterectomy or total abdominal hysterectomy at a tertiary care center. Patients who met criteria for participation were sent a one page confidential, anonymous questionnaire to assess sexual function experienced both pre- and postoperatively. A total of 69 patients in each group were eligible for participation. A multiple logistic regression model was used to analyze measured variables.
Forty-eight percent (n = 33) of women undergoing a SCH returned the questionnaire, while 39% (n = 27) of those undergoing a TAH chose to participate. There were no significant demographic differences between the two groups. Patients who underwent TAH reported worse postoperative sexual outcome than SCH patients with respect to intercourse frequency, orgasm frequency and overall sexual satisfaction (P = 0.01, 0.03, and 0.03, respectively). Irrespective of type of hysterectomy, 35% of patients who underwent bilateral salpingoophorectomy (BSO) with hysterectomy experienced worse overall sexual satisfaction compared to 3% of patients who underwent hysterectomy alone (P = 0.02).
Our data suggest that TAH patients experienced worse postoperative sexual function than SCH patients with respect to intercourse frequency and overall sexual satisfaction. Irrespective of type of hysterectomy, patients who underwent bilateral salpingoophorectomy experienced worse overall sexual satisfaction.
PMCID: PMC65528  PMID: 11825343

Results 1-7 (7)