The objective of this study was to determine if fetal-maternal cell trafficking is affected by maternal immune competence and/or parental background strain using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). In our experience the sensitivity of FACS allows for the detection of 5 fetal in 10(7) maternal cells and assessment of cell surface phenotype. Wild-type C57BL/6J (n=18), FVB/NJ (n=15), and immunodeficient B6129S7-Rag1(tm1Mom)/J (n=16) female mice were mated to C57BL/6J males homozygous for the green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgene. Single cell suspensions of maternal lung, liver, spleen, bone marrow, and blood were analyzed between late gestation (day e16-18) and 1 day post-partum for the number of GFP-positive fetal cells in relation to 10(7) maternal cells and the percentage of GFP-positive cells that expressed the surface markers CD11b, CD29, CD34, CD44, or CD105. The highest relative proportions of GFP-positive fetal cells were observed in maternal lungs and livers from immunocompetent allogenic females. Among congenic matings, fetal cell microchimerism was higher in immunodeficient compared with immunocompetent females. Maternal strain and strain differences between the mother and father statistically significantly affected both the numbers of fetal cells and the relative distribution of cell types in maternal organs. The highest relative proportion of fetal cells was observed in allogenic matings with immunocompetent females. Since allogenic matings are more similar to those that occur in humans, future studies using animal models of microchimerism should consider incorporating this type of experimental design.
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