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BACKGROUND: Immunomodulatory processes exert steering functions throughout pregnancy. Detecting diversions from this physiologic immune clock may help identify pregnant women at risk for pregnancy-associated complications. We present results from a data-driven selection process to develop a targeted panel of mRNAs that may prove effective in detecting pregnancies diverting from the norm. METHODS: Based on a de novo dataset from a resource-constrained setting and a dataset from a resource-rich area readily available in the public domain, whole blood gene expression profiles of uneventful pregnancies were captured at multiple time points during pregnancy. BloodGen3, a fixed blood transcriptional module repertoire, was employed to analyze and visualize gene expression patterns in the two datasets. Differentially expressed genes were identified by comparing their abundance to non-pregnant postpartum controls. The selection process for a targeted gene panel considered (i) transcript abundance in whole blood; (ii) degree of correlation with the BloodGen3 module; and (iii) pregnancy biology. RESULTS: We identified 176 transcripts that were complemented with eight housekeeping genes. Changes in transcript abundance were seen in the early stages of pregnancy and similar patterns were observed in both datasets. Functional gene annotation suggested significant changes in the lymphoid, prostaglandin and inflammation-associated compartments, when compared to the postpartum controls. CONCLUSION: The gene panel presented here holds promise for the development of predictive, targeted, transcriptional profiling assays. Such assays might become useful for monitoring of pregnant women, specifically to detect potential adverse events early. Prospective validation of this targeted assay, in-depth investigation of functional annotations of differentially expressed genes, and assessment of common pregnancy-associated complications with the aim to identify these early in pregnancy to improve pregnancy outcomes are the next steps.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Immunol

Publication Date





BloodGen3 module, immunomodulatory processes, pregnancy-associated complications, transcriptome fingerprinting assay, whole blood gene expression, Pregnancy, Humans, Female, Transcriptome, Postpartum Period, Pregnancy Outcome, RNA, Messenger, Pregnancy Complications