Genome-wide transcription data of utero-placental tissue has been used to identify altered gene expression associated with preeclampsia (PE). As many women with PE deliver preterm, there is often a difference in gestational age between PE women and healthy pregnant controls. This may pose a potential bias since gestational age has been shown to dramatically influence gene expression in utero-placental tissue. By pooling data from three genome-wide transcription studies of the maternal-fetal interface, we have evaluated the relative effect of gestational age and PE on gene expression. A total of 18,180 transcripts were evaluated in 49 PE cases and 105 controls, with gestational age ranging from week 14 to 42. A total of 22 transcripts were associated with PE, whereas 92 transcripts with gestational age (nominal P value <1.51*10-6, Bonferroni adjusted P value <0.05). Our results indicate that gestational age has a great influence on gene expression both in normal and PE-complicated pregnancies. This effect might introduce serious bias in data analyses and needs to be carefully assessed in future genome-wide transcription studies.
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