BioGPS has become the valuable resource that it is because of the contributions from our wonderful user community. Thank you for contributing plugins, suggestions, and ideas–all of which have improved BioGPS for everyone. In order to celebrate the contributions of BioGPS users to the scientific research community, this series will feature publications and articles generated by BioGPS users. We sincerely hope you will join us in celebrating the fascinating work that YOU do.

This week, we will feature an article from a highly multidiscliplinary team that researches the lifelong consequences of the intimate and unique biological relationship between mother and baby during pregnancy: Maternal obesity affects fetal neurodevelopmental and metabolic gene expression: a pilot study by Andrea G. Edlow, Neeta L. Vora, Lisa Hui, Heather C. Wick, Janet M. Cowan, and Diana W. Bianchi. (DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0088661)

Dr. Andrea Edlow kindly answered our inquiries for this series.

  1. Who is the team behind the work that was published in Maternal obesity affects fetal neurodevelopmental and metabolic gene expression: a pilot study?
    The team was multidisciplinary, including obstetricians and pediatric geneticists in the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center (Dr. Diana Bianchi, Dr. Neeta Vora, Dr. Lisa Hui, and myself), a cytogeneticist (Dr. Janet Cowan), and a bioinformatics specialist (Heather Wick).

  3. Please provide a brief summary of your research findings from Maternal obesity affects fetal neurodevelopmental and metabolic gene expression: a pilot study.
    Maternal obesity is epidemic in the United States. Children of obese women are known to be at increased risk for neurodevelopmental and metabolic morbidity, but underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. We performed a global gene expression analysis of mid-trimester amniotic fluid cell-free fetal RNA in obese versus lean pregnant women.

    This prospective pilot study included eight obese (BMI≥30) and eight lean (BMI<25) women undergoing clinically indicated mid-trimester genetic amniocentesis. Cell-free fetal RNA was extracted from amniotic fluid and hybridized to whole genome expression arrays. Significantly differentially-regulated genes were identified using paired t-tests with the Benjamini-Hochberg correction (false discovery rate of <0.05). Biological interpretation was performed with Ingenuity Pathway Analysis and the BioGPS gene expression atlas. We found that in fetuses of obese pregnant women, 205 genes were significantly differentially regulated. Apolipoprotein D, a gene highly expressed in the central nervous system and integral to lipid regulation, was the most up-regulated gene (9-fold). Apoptotic cell death was significantly down-regulated, particularly within nervous system pathways involving the cerebral cortex. Activation of the transcriptional regulators estrogen receptor, FOS, and STAT3 was predicted in fetuses of obese women, suggesting a pro-estrogenic, pro-inflammatory milieu. Maternal obesity appears to affect fetal neurodevelopmental and metabolic gene expression as early as the second trimester. These findings may have implications for postnatal neurodevelopmental and metabolic abnormalities described in the offspring of obese women.


  5. How did the team learn about and/or utilize BioGPS for this research?
    Our laboratory has utilized BioGPS for a number of projects. The coverage of fetal tissues by this atlas is particularly compelling to us, given that our research often focuses on fetal gene expression. BioGPS helps us to identify what tissues express our differentially-regulated genes most highly, which can provide insights into what organ systems may be affected by a maternal or fetal exposure/condition at a given point in development.

  7. What are some future directions for the team behind this research?
    We are currently investigating fetal brain development and offspring behavior in a mouse model of maternal obesity.

Thanks again to Dr. Andrea Edlow for taking the time to answer our questions. Click here to read their fascinating article. Have a look because these awesome researchers have made their compelling research open access–so you can read the whole exciting article for free!

Used BioGPS and cited it in your publication? Let us know! We would love to feature YOUR work, no matter how long ago it was published. BioGPS Featured Article Series only started recently, but we know your contributions to science is ongoing.

2016.06.16 – Links updated to lead to original article.