Christopher Coe, PhD – Slide of the Week

Title: Transgenerational similarity in maternal and infant birthweights ​at delivery in rhesus monkeys

Legend: A grandmother’s birthweight accounted for 9% of the variation in the birthweights of her descendants; an additional 21% of the variance in infant birthweight was attributable to the mother’s birthweight. There was no evidence for an influence of paternal birthweight or adult size on infant birthweights.

Citation: Shirtcliff EA, Lubach GR, Mooney R, Beck RT, Fanning LK, Coe CL. Transgenerational propensities for infant birth weight reflect fetal growth history of the mother in rhesus monkeys. Trends Dev Biol. 2019 Dec;12:55-65. PMID: 32616989; PMCID: PMC7331457.

Abstract: Birth weight (BW) at delivery is an important developmental milestone indicative of prenatal conditions and portends of the postnatal growth trajectory that will occur during infancy and childhood. Previous research has documented that there are also many physiological and health consequences of being born either small-for-gestational age (SGA) or large-for-gestational age (LGA). Analyses of breeding animals have demonstrated further that a gravid female exerts a strong influence on the size of her infant by term, and this permissiveness or constraint over fetal growth can be transmitted from mothers to their daughters. The following research tested additional hypotheses about matrilineal effects on BW by examining records from a large breeding colony of rhesus monkeys across multiple generations. The analyses utilized BW of 1710 infant monkeys obtained over 4 decades. In addition to determining the association between the birth weight (BW) of a female and her own infants birthed later as a mother, the multi-generational transmission of birth size from a grandmother through her daughters to the next generation was examined. Other maternal influences were evident, including a progressive increase in infant BW with parity, which synergized with matrilineal effects across a female’s reproductive life.  In addition, our modeling indicated that if an infant’s BW was discordant—a SGA female birthing a larger daughter—the discrepant fetal growth pattern could be accentuated in the next generation. Overall, the findings confirm that the size of an infant at term is significantly influenced by a type of gestational imprinting on daughters during the prenatal period, which then continues to shape birth outcomes in subsequent generations.

Investigator: Christopher Coe, PhD

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