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Publication - Professor Marcus Pembrey

    Grand-maternal smoking in pregnancy and grandchild’s autistic traits and diagnosed autism


    Golding, J, Ellis, G, Gregory, S, Birmingham, K, Iles-Caven, Y, Rai, D & Pembrey, M, 2017, ‘Grand-maternal smoking in pregnancy and grandchild’s autistic traits and diagnosed autism’. Scientific Reports, vol 7.


    Although there is considerable research into the genetic background of autism spectrum disorders, environmental factors are likely to contribute to the increase in prevalence over time. Rodent experiments indicate that environmental exposures can have effects on subsequent generations, and human studies indicate that parental prenatal exposures may play a part in developmental variation. Here we use the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to test the hypothesis that if the mother or father (F1) had been exposed to their own mother’s (F0) smoking during pregnancy, the offspring (F2) would be at increased risk of autism. We find an association between maternal grandmother smoking in pregnancy and grand-daughters having adverse scores in Social Communication and Repetitive Behaviour measures that are independently predictive of diagnosed autism. In line with this, we show an association with actual diagnosis of autism in her grandchildren. Paternal grandmothers smoking in pregnancy showed no associations.

    Full details in the University publications repository