The purpose of the present study was to search for associations between spontaneous preterm birth (sPTB), single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with the apoptotic pathway as triggered by oxidative stress, maternal lifestyle and health status. SNP genotyping [rs7560 for c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), rs9517320 for mammalian STE20-like protein kinase 3 (MST3), rs1049216 for caspase 3 (CASP3)] in the placenta and maternal blood of 300 controls with at-term birth and 43 cases of sPTB was performed. No association was identified in genotype frequencies or combinations of foetal/maternal genotypes between single SNPs and sPTB. The risk of sPTB was significantly reduced by physical activity and significantly increased by current hypertensive diseases, premature rupture of membranes (PROM) or preterm PROM (P-PROM) and previous sPTB. The TT/GA genotype of JNK/CASP3 in maternal blood and maternal health status (current hypertensive diseases, current PROM/P-PROM, previous sPTB) were independently associated with sPTB. The present findings suggested that, independently of other maternal factors, pregnant women carrying the TT/GA genotype of JNK/CASP3 were more susceptible to sPTB than women bearing the GT/GA (our reference) genotype; that the apoptotic pathway triggered by oxidative stress was involved; and that genetic and non-genetic factors contributed to sPTB. Knowledge of these aspects may aid to improve the management of pregnancies by indicating the lifestyle to be adopted on the basis of sPTB susceptibility.
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