Cell-free fetal DNA and spontaneous preterm birth

Sara R van Boeckel, Donald J Davidson, Jane E Norman, Sarah J Stock

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
136 Downloads (Pure)


Inflammation is known to play a key role in preterm and term parturition. Cell-free fetal DNA (cff-DNA) is present in the maternal circulation and increases with gestational age and some pregnancy complications (e.g. preterm birth, preeclampsia). Microbial DNA and adult cell-free DNA can be pro-inflammatory through DNA-sensing mechanisms such as Toll-like receptor 9 and the Stimulator of Interferon Genes (STING) pathway. However, the pro-inflammatory properties of cff-DNA, and the possible effects of this on pregnancy and parturition are unknown. Clinical studies have quantified cff-DNA levels in the maternal circulation in women who deliver preterm and women who deliver at term and show an association between preterm labor and higher cff-DNA levels in the 2nd, 3rd trimester and at onset of preterm birth symptoms. Together with potential pro-inflammatory properties of cff-DNA, this rise suggests a potential mechanistic role in the pathogenesis of spontaneous preterm birth. In this review, we discuss the evidence linking cff-DNA to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth, obtained from preclinical and clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R137-R145
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids/analysis
  • Female
  • Fetus/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation/diagnosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Premature Birth/diagnosis


Dive into the research topics of 'Cell-free fetal DNA and spontaneous preterm birth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this