Cellular fetal microchimerism in preeclampsia

Hypertension. 2013 Dec;62(6):1062-7. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.113.01486. Epub 2013 Oct 7.


Previous studies have shown elevated concentrations of free fetal DNA and erythroblasts in maternal circulation in women with preeclampsia compared with those with normal pregnancy. Pluripotent and immunocompetent fetal cells also transfer to the maternal circulation during pregnancy, but whether concentrations of fetal mononuclear cells also differed in preeclampsia was unknown. We sought to quantify cellular fetal microchimerism in maternal circulation in women with preeclampsia and healthy controls. We studied women with preeclampsia and compared them with women with healthy pregnancies at similar gestational age. To identify a targetable polymorphism unique to the fetus to quantify fetal microchimerism, participants and family members were genotyped for the human leukocyte antigen loci DRB1, DQA1, and DQB1, as well as several other polymorphisms. A panel of polymorphism-specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction assays was used to identify and quantify fetal microchimerism in maternal peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Of 53 preeclampsia samples tested for cellular fetal microchimerism, 17 (32%) were positive when compared with 6 of 57 (6%) control samples (unadjusted odds ratio for detection, 4.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.5-11.1; P=0.007). The concentration of cellular fetal microchimerism (expressed as genome equivalents of fetal microchimerism per 100,000 maternal genome equivalents) was also higher among women with preeclampsia: median 0.0, mean 5.7, range 0 to 153.7, compared with those with controls: median 0.0, mean 0.3, range 0 to 9.1, P=0.002. We conclude that women with preeclampsia harbor cellular fetal microchimerism more commonly and at higher concentrations compared with women with uncomplicated pregnancy. The functional capacity and phenotype of these fetal cells are not yet known.

Keywords: chimerism; hypertension; maternal–fetal exchange; preeclampsia; pregnancy complications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chimerism*
  • Female
  • Fetus / immunology
  • Genotype
  • Gestational Age
  • HLA Antigens / genetics
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / genetics
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / immunology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / genetics*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / immunology
  • Pregnancy


  • HLA Antigens