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Open Access Research

Perturbation of gene expression of the chromatin remodeling pathway in premature newborns at risk for bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Jennifer Cohen12, Linda J Van Marter12, Yao Sun3, Elizabeth Allred45, Alan Leviton45 and Isaac S Kohane67*

Author Affiliations

1 Children's Hospital, Boston, Division of Newborn Medicine, Boston, Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

2 Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Newborn Medicine, Boston, Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

3 Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara, Santa Clara, Lawrence Expressway, Santa Clara, CA 95051, USA

4 Children's Hospital Boston, Neuroepidemiology Unit, Boston, Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

5 Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

6 Children's Hospital Informatics Program at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Boston, Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

7 Harvard-Partner's Center for Genetics and Genomics, Boston, Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

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Genome Biology 2007, 8:R210  doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-10-r210

Published: 4 October 2007



One-third to one-half of all infants born before the 28th week of gestation develop bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). Inflammatory regulators appear to be involved in the pathogenesis of BPD, possibly beginning in fetal life. To evaluate the feasibility of using expression profiling in umbilical cord tissue to discover molecular signatures for developmental staging and for determining risk of BPD, we conducted a cross-sectional study of infants born at less than 28 weeks of gestation (n = 54). Sections of umbilical cord were obtained at birth from 20 infants who later developed BPD and from 34 of their peers who did not develop BPD.


Umbilical cord expression profiles at birth exhibited systematic differences in bioenergetic pathways with respect to gestational age. Infants who subsequently developed BPD had distinct signatures involving chromatin remodeling and histone acetylation pathways, which have previously been implicated in several adult onset lung diseases. These findings are consistent with prior work on inflammatory processes and bioenergetics in prematurity.


This study of gene expression of the newborn umbilical cord implicates the chromatin remodeling pathways in those premature infants who subsequently develop BPD. Larger sample sizes will be required to generate prognostic markers from umbilical cord profiles.