Fetal supply with long-chain PUFA (LC-PUFA) during pregnancy is important for brain growth and visual and cognitive development and is provided by materno-fetal placental transfer.

We recently showed that maternal fatty acid desaturase (FADS) genotypes modulate the amounts of LC-PUFA in maternal blood. Whether FADS genotypes influence the amounts of umbilical cord fatty acids has not been investigated until now.

The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of maternal and child FADS genotypes on the amounts of LC-PUFA in umbilical cord venous plasma as an indicator of fetal fatty acid supply during pregnancy. A total of eleven cord plasma n-6 and n-3 fatty acids were analysed for association with seventeen FADS gene cluster SNP in over 2000 mothers and children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. In a multivariable analysis, the maternal genotype effect was adjusted for the child genotype and vice versa to estimate which of the two has the stronger influence on cord plasma fatty acids.

Both maternal and child FADS genotypes and haplotypes influenced amounts of cord plasma LC-PUFA and fatty acid ratios. Specifically, most analysed maternal SNP were associated with cord plasma levels of the precursor n-6 PUFA, whereas the child genotypes were mainly associated with more highly desaturated n-6 LC-PUFA.

This first study on FADS genotypes and cord fatty acids suggests that fetal LC-PUFA status is determined to some extent by fetal fatty acid conversion. Associations of particular haplotypes suggest specific effects of SNP rs498793 and rs968567 on fatty acid metabolism.

PMID: 22877655

See following website for full manuscript.