Expression of Homeobox Gene HLX and its Downstream Target Genes are Altered in Placentae From Discordant Twin Pregnancies

Nicola Yuen, Shaun P. Brennecke, Mark P. Umstad, Hannah E.J. Yong, Anthony J. Borg, Gayathri Rajaraman, Bill Kalionis, Padma Murthi

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A discordant twin gestation, in which one fetus is significantly growth restricted, compared to the other normal twin, is a unique model that can be used to elucidate the mechanism(s) by which the intrauterine environment affects fetal growth. In many model systems, placental transcription factor genes regulate fetal growth. Transcription factors regulate growth through their activation or repression of downstream target genes that mediate important cell functions. The objective of this study was to determine the expression of the placental HLX homeobox gene transcription factor and its downstream target genes in dizygotic twins with growth discordance. In this cross-sectional study, HLX and its downstream target genes' retinoblastoma 1 (RB1) and cyclin kinase D (CDKN1C) expression levels were determined in placentae obtained from dichorionic diamniotic twin pregnancies (n = 23) where one of the twins was growth restricted. Fetal growth restriction (FGR) was defined as small for gestational age with abnormal umbilical artery Doppler indices when compared with the normal control co-twin. Homeobox gene HLX expression was significantly decreased at both the mRNA and protein levels in FGR twin placentae compared with the normal control co-twin placentae (p <.05). Downstream target genes CDKN1C and RB1 were also significantly decreased and increased, respectively, at both the mRNA and protein levels in FGR twin placentae compared with normal control co-twin placentae (p <.05). Together, these observations suggest an important association between HLX transcription factor expression and abnormal human placental development in discordant twin pregnancies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • discordant twins
  • fetal growth
  • gene expression
  • HLX
  • homeobox genes
  • placenta

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