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Title: Placental mitochondrial DNA content is associated with childhood intelligence
Authors: BIJNENS, Esmee 
Derom, Catherine
Weyers, Steven
Thiery, Evert
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: BMC
Source: Journal of Translational Medicine, 17 (Art N° 361)
Abstract: Background: Developmental processes in the placenta and the fetal brain are shaped by the similar biological signals. Evidence accumulates that adaptive responses of the placenta may infuence central nervous system development. We hypothesize that placental mtDNA content at birth is associated with intelligence in childhood. In addition, we investigate if intra-pair diferences in mtDNA content are associated with intra-pair diferences in intelligence. Methods: Relative mtDNA content was measured using qPCR in placental tissue of 375 children of the East Flanders Prospective Twin Survey. Intelligence was assessed with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R) between 8 and 15 years old. We accounted for sex, gestational age, birth weight, birth year, zygosity and chorionicity, cord insertion, age at measurement, indicators of socioeconomic status, smoking during pregnancy, and urban environment. Results: In multivariable adjusted mixed modelling analysis, each doubling in placental mtDNA content was associated with 2.0 points (95% CI 0.02 to 3.9; p=0.05) higher total and 2.3 points (95% CI 0.2 to 4.3; p=0.03) higher performance IQ in childhood. We observed no association between mtDNA content and verbal intelligence. Intra-pair diferences in mtDNA content and IQ were signifcantly (p=0.01) correlated in monozygotic-monochorionic twin pairs, showing that the twin with the highest mtDNA content was 1.9 times more likely (p=0.05) to have the highest IQ. This was not observed in dichorionic twin pairs. Conclusions: We provide the frst evidence that placental mtDNA content is associated with childhood intelligence. This emphasizes the importance of placental mitochondrial function during in utero life on fetal brain development with long-lasting consequences
Notes: Informed consent was obtained from all participants, and ethical approval was given by the Ethics Committee of University Hospital Ghent and Hasselt University (Registration number: B670201730788).
Keywords: Mitochondrial DNA content;Placenta;Intelligence;Childhood;Twins;DOHaD
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e-ISSN: 1479-5876
DOI: 10.1186/s12967-019-2105-y
ISI #: WOS:000496128300001
Rights: The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Category: A1
Type: Journal Contribution
Validations: ecoom 2020
Appears in Collections:Research publications

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