Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

Original Articles

Osteoprotegerin in pregnant adolescents differs by race and is related to infant birth weight z-score

B. Essleya1, T. McNanleya2, B. Coopera2, A. McIntyrea2, F. Wittera3, Z. Harrisa4 and K. O'Briena1 c1

a1 Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

a2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, New York, USA

a3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

a4 Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA


Osteoprotegerin (OPG) is involved in the regulation of bone turnover, but little is known about this protein during pregnancy or among neonates. We undertook a prospective longitudinal study to identify relationships between OPG, markers of bone turnover and birth outcomes in 155 pregnant adolescents (13–18 years) and their newborns. Maternal blood samples were collected at mid-gestation and at delivery. Cord blood was obtained at delivery. Serum OPG, estradiol and markers of bone formation (osteocalcin) and resorption (N-telopeptide) were assessed in all samples. Placental OPG expression was assessed in placental tissue obtained at delivery. Bone markers and OPG increased significantly from mid-gestation (26.0 ± 3.4 weeks) to delivery (39.3 ± 2.6 weeks). Neonatal OPG was significantly lower, but bone turnover markers were significantly higher than maternal values at mid-gestation and at parturition (P < 0.001). African-American adolescents had higher concentrations of OPG than Caucasian adolescents at mid-gestation (P = 0.01) and delivery (P = 0.04). Gestational age and estradiol were also predictors of maternal OPG at mid-gestation and delivery. OPG concentrations in cord blood were correlated with maternal OPG concentrations and were negatively associated with infant birth weight z-score (P = 0.02) and ponderal index (P = 0.02). In conclusion, maternal OPG concentrations increased across gestation and were significantly higher than neonatal OPG concentrations. Maternal and neonatal OPG concentrations were not associated with markers of bone turnover or placental OPG expression, but neonatal OPG was inversely associated with neonatal anthropometric measures. Additional research is needed to identify roles of OPG during pregnancy.


c1 Address for correspondence: Prof. K. O'Brien, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, 230 Savage, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. (Email