Genetic landscape of preterm birth due to cervical insufficiency: Comprehensive gene analysis and patient next-generation sequencing data interpretation

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Preterm delivery is both a traumatizing experience for the patient and a burden on the healthcare system. A condition distinguishable by its phenotype in prematurity is cervical insufficiency, where certain cases exhibit a strong genetic component. Despite genomic advancements, little is known about the genetics of human cervix remodeling during pregnancy. Using selected gene approaches, a few studies have demonstrated an association of common gene variants with cervical insufficiency. However, until now, no study has employed comprehensive methods to investigate this important subject matter. In this study, we asked: i) are there genes reliably linked to cervical insufficiency and, if so, what are their roles? and ii) what is the proportion of cases of non-syndromic cervical insufficiency attributable to these genetic variations? We performed next-generation sequencing on 21 patients with a clinical presentation of cervical insufficiency. To assist the sequencing data interpretation, we retrieved all known genes implicated in cervical functioning through a systematic literature analysis and additional gene searches. These genes were then classified according to their relation to the questions being posed by the study. Patients' sequence variants were filtered for pathogenicity and assigned a likelihood of being contributive to phenotype development. Gene extraction and analysis revealed 12 genes primarily linked to cervical insufficiency, the majority of which are known to cause collagenopathies. Ten patients carried disruptive variants potentially contributive to the development of non-syndromic cervical insufficiency. Pathway enrichment analysis of variant genes from our cohort revealed an increased variation burden in genes playing roles in tissue mechanical and biomechanical properties, i.e. collagen biosynthesis and cell-extracellular matrix communications. Consequently, the proposed idea of cervical insufficiency being a subtle form of collagenopathy, now strengthened by our genetic findings, might open up new opportunities for improved patient evaluation and management.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0230771
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2020

Field of Science*

  • 1.6 Biological sciences
  • 3.1 Basic medicine

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


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