The etiology of preeclampsia: The role of the father

Gus Dekker, Pierre Yves Robillard, Claire Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Preeclampsia is often considered as simply a maternal disease with variable degrees of fetal involvement. More and more the unique immunogenetic maternal-paternal relationship is appreciated, and also the specific 'genetic conflict' that is characteristic of haemochorial placentation. From that perspective, pre-eclampsia can be seen as a disease of an individual couple with primarily maternal and fetal manifestations. The maternal and fetal genomes perform different roles during development. Heritable paternal, rather than maternal, imprinting of the genome is necessary for normal trophoblast development. Large population studies have estimated that 35% of the variance in susceptibility to preeclampsia is attributable to maternal genetic effects; 20% to fetal genetic effects (with similar contributions of both parents), 13% to the couple effect, less than 1% to the shared sibling environment and 32% to unmeasured factors. Not one of these large population studies focussed on the paternal contribution to preeclampsia, which is demonstrated by (1) the effect of the length of the sexual relationship; (2) the concept of primipaternity versus primigravidity; and (3) the existence of the so-called 'dangerous' father, as demonstrated in various large population studies. It is currently unknown how the father exerts this effect. Possible mechanisms include seminal cytokine levels and their effect on maternal immune deviation, specific paternal HLA characteristics and specific paternal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), in particular in the paternally expressed genes affecting placentation. Several large cohort studies, including the large international SCOPE consortium, have identified paternal SNPs with strong associations with preeclampsia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-132
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Reproductive Immunology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Paternal risk factors
  • Pre-eclampsia


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