Maternal diabetes is associated with an increased risk of complications for the mother and her offspring. The latter have an increased risk of foetal macrosomia, hypoglycaemia, respiratory distress syndrome, preterm delivery, malformations and mortality but also of life-long development of obesity and diabetes. Epigenetics have been proposed as an explanation for this long-term risk, and microRNAs (miRNAs) may play a role, both in short- and long-term outcomes. Gestation is associated with increasing maternal insulin resistance, as well as β-cell expansion, to account for the increased insulin needs and studies performed in pregnant rats support a role of miRNAs in this expansion. Furthermore, several miRNAs are involved in pancreatic embryonic development. On the other hand, maternal diabetes is associated with changes in miRNA both in maternal and in foetal tissues. This review aims to summarise the existing knowledge on miRNAs in gestational and pre-gestational diabetes, both as diagnostic biomarkers and as mechanistic players, in the development of gestational diabetes itself and also of short- and long-term complications for the mother and her offspring.
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