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Obstetrics - Oncology

Short Fetal Leukocyte Telomere Length and Preterm Prelabor Rupture of the Membranes
Published: Monday, February 13, 2012
Author: Ramkumar Menon et al.

by Ramkumar Menon, Jie Yu, Patrice Basanta-Henry, Lina Brou, Sarah L. Berga, Stephen J. Fortunato, Robert N. Taylor


Rupture of the fetal membranes is a common harbinger of imminent labor and delivery. Telomere shortening is a surrogate for oxidative stress (OS) and senescence. Fetal leukocyte and placental membrane DNA telomere lengths were evaluated to determine their association with preterm prelabor rupture of the membranes (pPROM) or spontaneous preterm births with intact membranes (PTB), compared to term birth.


Telomere lengths were quantified in cord blood leukocytes (n?=?133) from three major groups: 1) pPROM (n?=?28), 2) PTB (n?=?69) and 3) uncomplicated full term births (controls, n?=?35), using real-time quantitative PCR. Placental membrane specimens (n?=?18) were used to correlate fetal leukocyte and placental telomere lengths. Telomere length differences among the groups were analyzed by ANOVA. Pearson correlation coefficients determined relationships between leukocyte and placental membrane telomere lengths.


In pregnancies with intact membranes, fetal leukocyte telomere length was inversely proportional to gestational age. The mean telomere length decreased as gestation progressed, with the shortest at term. pPROM had telomere lengths (9962±3124 bp) that were significantly shorter than gestational age-matched PTB (11546±4348 bp, p?=?0.04), but comparable to term births (9011±2497 bp, p?=?0.31). Secondary analyses revealed no effects of race (African American vs. Caucasian) or intraamniotic infection on telomere length. A strong Pearson's correlation was noted between fetal leukocyte and placental membrane telomere lengths (??=?0.77; p<0.01).


Fetal leukocyte telomere length is reduced in pPROM compared to PTB but is similar to term births. pPROM represents a placental membrane disease likely mediated by OS-induced senescence.