Fetal ADH2*3, Maternal Alcohol Consumption, and Fetal Growth

Darryl P. Arfsten, Ellen K. Silbergeld, Christopher A. Loffredo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There is some evidence suggesting the allele for alcohol dehydrogenase 2*3 (ADH2*3) is associated with a protective effect against alcohol-related intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). This study was conducted to explore the affect of the ADH2*3 allele on fetal growth. Bloodspots (n = 1016) belonging to individual infants of a subgroup of the Baltimore-Washington Infant Study (BWIS) were assayed for the presence of the ADH2*3 allele by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based method. Infants genotyped for ADH2*3 were those for whom bloodspots were identified and obtained from the Maryland Newborn Screening Program. The effect of ADH2*3 and maternal alcohol consumption on intrauterine growth was explored by multivariable linear regression analysis. Twenty-six percent of the 306 blood spots belonging to African-American infants were positive for ADH2*3 (4% were homozygous and 22% were heterozygous). Only a small percentage of bloodspots for Caucasian (1.3%) were positive for the ADH2*3 allele. Consequently, further analysis concentrated on gene-exposure interactions for African-American infants. It was found that the incidence of being small-for-gestation-age (SGA) was lower for ADH2*3-positive infants (2.5% versus 8.8%; p = .08). SGA infants had elevated odds for being ADH2*3 negative (OR: 3.15, 95% C.I.: 0.70-14.26) and for being born to mothers that consumed alcohol during pregnancy (OR: 2.31, 95% C.I.: 0.77-6.91). A negative trend between maternal alcohol consumption and mean offspring birthweight was found; however, ADH2*3 did not have a significant impact on mean birthweight for infants born to mothers that drank during pregnancy. These results could be interpreted as possible support for the hypothesis that ADH2 genotype in the infant may impact risk for alcohol-related IUGR. However, this study has limitations in that it is a "nested study of convenience" and involves a relatively small number of infants born to mothers reporting moderate to heavy alcohol use during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-54
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


  • ADH2
  • IUGR
  • Intrauterine Growth Retardation
  • SGA
  • Small-For-Gestational-Age

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology

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