The Early Life Course of Body Weight and Gene Expression Signatures for Disease


Potente, C.; Harris, K. M.; Chumbley, J.; Cole, S. W.; Gaydosh, L.; Xu, W.; Levitt, B.; & Shanahan, M. J. (2021). The Early Life Course of Body Weight and Gene Expression Signatures for Disease. Am J Epidemiol. , PMCID: PMC8489427


This study examines how body weight patterns through the first four decades of life relate to gene expression signatures of common forms of morbidity, including cardiovascular diseases (CVD), type 2 diabetes (T2D), and inflammation. As part of Wave V of the nationally representative National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (1997-2018) in the United States, mRNA abundance data were collected from peripheral blood (n = 1,132). We use a Bayesian modeling strategy to examine the relative associations between body size at five life stages-birth, adolescence, early adulthood, young adulthood, and adulthood-and gene expression-based disease signatures. We compare life course models that consider critical or sensitive periods, as well as accumulation over the entire period. Our results are consistent with a sensitive period model when examining CVD and T2D gene expression signatures: birth weight has a prominent role for the CVD and T2D signatures (explaining 33.1 % and 22.1 %, respectively, of the total association accounted for by body size), while the most recent adult obesity status (age 33-39) is important for both of these gene expression signatures (24.3 % and 35.1%, respectively). Body size in all life stages was associated with inflammation, consistent with the accumulation model.



birth weight

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Am J Epidemiol


Potente, C.
Harris, K. M.
Chumbley, J.
Cole, S. W.
Gaydosh, L.
Xu, W.
Levitt, B.
Shanahan, M. J.

Year Published






Reference ID