First-appearing islet autoantibodies for type 1 diabetes in young children: maternal life events during pregnancy and the child’s genetic risk

the TEDDY Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Aims/hypothesis: Psychological stress has long been considered a possible trigger of type 1 diabetes, although prospective studies examining the link between psychological stress or life events during pregnancy and the child’s type 1 diabetes risk are rare. The objective of this study was to examine the association between life events during pregnancy and first-appearing islet autoantibodies (IA) in young children, conditioned by the child’s type 1 diabetes-related genetic risk. Methods: The IA status of 7317 genetically at-risk The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) participants was assessed every 3 months from 3 months to 4 years, and bi-annually thereafter. Reports of major life events during pregnancy were collected at study inception when the child was 3 months of age and placed into one of six categories. Life events during pregnancy were examined for association with first-appearing insulin (IAA) (N = 222) or GAD (GADA) (N = 209) autoantibodies in the child until 6 years of age using proportional hazard models. Relative excess risk due to interaction (RERI) by the child’s HLA-DR and SNP profile was estimated. Results: Overall, 65% of mothers reported a life event during pregnancy; disease/injury (25%), serious interpersonal (28%) and job-related (25%) life events were most common. The association of life events during pregnancy differed between IAA and GADA as the first-appearing autoantibody. Serious interpersonal life events correlated with increased risk of GADA-first only in HLA-DR3 children with the BACH2-T allele (HR 2.28, p < 0.0001), an additive interaction (RERI 1.87, p = 0.0004). Job-related life events were also associated with increased risk of GADA-first among HLA-DR3/4 children (HR 1.53, p = 0.04) independent of serious interpersonal life events (HR 1.90, p = 0.002), an additive interaction (RERI 1.19, p = 0.004). Job-related life events correlated with reduced risk of IAA-first (HR 0.55, p = 0.004), particularly in children with the BTNL2-GG allele (HR 0.48; 95% CI 0.31, 0.76). Conclusions/interpretation: Specific life events during pregnancy are differentially related to IAA vs GADA as first-appearing IA and interact with different HLA and non-HLA genetic factors, supporting the concept of different endotypes underlying type 1 diabetes. However, the mechanisms underlying these associations remain to be discovered. Life events may be markers for other yet-to-be-identified factors important to the development of first-appearing IA. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-602
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • BACH2 single nucleotide polymorphism
  • BTNL2 single nucleotide polymorphism
  • GAD autoantibodies
  • HLA-DR-DQ haplogenotype
  • Insulin autoantibodies
  • Islet autoimmunity
  • Prenatal life events
  • Psychosocial stress
  • Type 1 diabetes


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