Maternal microchimerism in biliary atresia: are maternal cells effector cells, targets, or just bystanders?

Chimerism. 2014 Jan-Mar;5(1):1-5. doi: 10.4161/chim.28576. Epub 2014 Mar 26.


The etiology of biliary atresia (BA) is unknown; however, the liver histology is similar to that observed in immune-mediated hepatic disorders. Liver fibrosis in BA progresses even after bile drainage has been achieved by the Kasai operation. Maternal microchimerism has been purported to play a part in the pathogenesis of BA as well as certain autoimmune diseases. However, the role of maternal cells has not yet been determined in BA. Specifically, it is unknown whether these maternal cells function as maternal effector T lymphocytes, or targets or bystanders. We currently hypothesize that the first hit is due to GvHD interaction by engrafted maternal effector T lymphocytes. Furthermore, we suggest that the secondary effects that are manifested by progressive cirrhosis are caused either by maternal chimeric effector T lymphocytes (e.g., GvHD interaction) or targets (e.g., HvGD interaction). Based on our hypothesis, mixed lymphocyte reactions between patients and their mothers might shed light on the etiopathogenesis and prognostic indicators.

Keywords: Kasai hepatic portoenterostomy; biliary atresia; graft-versus-host disease; liver cirrhosis; liver transplant; maternal microchimerism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biliary Atresia / complications
  • Biliary Atresia / etiology
  • Biliary Atresia / immunology*
  • Biliary Atresia / pathology*
  • Chimerism / embryology*
  • Female
  • Graft vs Host Disease / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / immunology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pregnancy
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology