Male microchimerism in peripheral blood leukocytes from women with multiple sclerosis

Evan M. Bloch, William F. Reed, Tzong Hae Lee, Leilani Montalvo, Stephen Shiboski, Brian Custer, Lisa F. Barcellos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Fetal microchimerism (F-MC), the persistence of fetal cells in the mother, is frequently encountered following pregnancy. The high prevalence of F-MC in autoimmune disease prompts consideration of the role for immune tolerance and regulation. This study examines the association between F-MC and multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disorder, of undetermined etiology. Results: 21 out of 51 MS-positive subjects (41%) were classified as positive for F-MC; 4 of 22 (18%) of MS-negative sibling controls, were also positive for MC (p = 0.066). Unanticipated F-MC in controls lead to re-evaluation using 30 female singleton cord blood units (CBUs) as a biological control. Four CBUs were low-level positive. Study Design and Methods: Seventy-three female subjects were assigned to three groups according to disease status and pregnancy history: (1) MS positive (+) women with a history of one male pregnancy before symptom onset (n = 27); (2) MS negative (-) female siblings of MS+ women with a history of one male pregnancy (n = 22); and (3) MS+ women that reported never having been pregnant (n = 24). Ten micrograms of genomic DNA obtained from peripheral blood leukocytes of each subject were analyzed for F-MC using allele-specific real-time PCR targeting the SR-Y sequence on the Y-chromosome. MC classification was dichotomous (positive vs. negative) based on PCR results. Conclusion: The association between F-MC and MS warrants further study to define this relationship. F-MC in women self-reporting as nulligravid, supports previous findings that a significant proportion of pregnancies go undetected. This lead to re-validation of a Y-chromosome based assay for F-MC detection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-10
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoimmune disease
  • Fetal cells
  • Microchimerism
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Twinning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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