The genetic risk of gestational diabetes in South Asian women

Publication authors

Amel Lamri, Jayneel Limbachia, Karleen M Schulze, Dipika Desai, Brian Kelly, Russell J de Souza, Guillaume Paré, Deborah A Lawlor, John Wright, Sonia S Anand, On behalf of for the Born in Bradford and START investigators


South Asian women are at increased risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Few studies have investigated the genetic contributions to GDM risk. We investigated the association of a type 2 diabetes (T2D) polygenic risk score (PRS), on its own, and with GDM risk factors, on GDM-related traits using data from two birth cohorts in which South Asian women were enrolled during pregnancy. 837 and 4372 pregnant South Asian women from the SouTh Asian BiRth CohorT (START) and Born in Bradford (BiB) cohort studies underwent a 75-g glucose tolerance test. PRSs were derived using genome-wide association study results from an independent multi-ethnic study (~18% South Asians). Associations with fasting plasma glucose (FPG); 2 hr post-load glucose (2hG); area under the curve glucose; and GDM were tested using linear and logistic regressions. The population attributable fraction (PAF) of the PRS was calculated. Every 1 SD increase in the PRS was associated with a 0.085 mmol/L increase in FPG ([95% confidence interval, CI=0.07–0.10], p=2.85×10−20); 0.21 mmol/L increase in 2hG ([95% CI=0.16–0.26], p=5.49×10−16); and a 45% increase in the risk of GDM ([95% CI=32–60%], p=2.27×10−14), independent of parental history of diabetes and other GDM risk factors. PRS tertile 3 accounted for 12.5% of the population’s GDM alone, and 21.7% when combined with family history. A few weak PRS and GDM risk factors interactions modulating FPG and GDM were observed. Taken together, these results show that a T2D PRS and family history of diabetes are strongly and independently associated with multiple GDM-related traits in women of South Asian descent, an effect that could be modulated by other environmental factors.