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Critical Care and Emergency Medicine - Gastroenterology and Hepatology - Pathology - Pediatrics and Child Health

Neuropeptide Y2 Receptor (NPY2R) Expression in Saliva Predicts Feeding Immaturity in the Premature Neonate
Published: Monday, May 21, 2012
Author: Jill L. Maron et al.

by Jill L. Maron, Kirby L. Johnson, Jessica A. Dietz, Minghua L. Chen, Diana W. Bianchi


The current practice in newborn medicine is to subjectively assess when a premature infant is ready to feed by mouth. When the assessment is inaccurate, the resulting feeding morbidities may be significant, resulting in long-term health consequences and millions of health care dollars annually. We hypothesized that the developmental maturation of hypothalamic regulation of feeding behavior is a predictor of successful oral feeding in the premature infant. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed the gene expression of neuropeptide Y2 receptor (NPY2R), a known hypothalamic regulator of feeding behavior, in neonatal saliva to determine its role as a biomarker in predicting oral feeding success in the neonate.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Salivary samples (n?=?116), were prospectively collected from 63 preterm and 13 term neonates (post-conceptual age (PCA) 26 4/7 to 41 4/7 weeks) from five predefined feeding stages. Expression of NPY2R in neonatal saliva was determined by multiplex RT-qPCR amplification. Expression results were retrospectively correlated with feeding status at time of sample collection. Statistical analysis revealed that expression of NPY2R had a 95% positive predictive value for feeding immaturity. NPY2R expression statistically significantly decreased with advancing PCA (Wilcoxon test p value<0.01), and was associated with feeding status (chi square p value ?=? 0.013).


Developmental maturation of hypothalamic regulation of feeding behavior is an essential component of oral feeding success in the newborn. NPY2R expression in neonatal saliva is predictive of an immature feeding pattern. It is a clinically relevant biomarker that may be monitored in saliva to improve clinical care and reduce significant feeding-associated morbidities that affect the premature neonate.