Abstract: Possible contribution of microchimerism to the pathogenesis of Sjögren’s syndrome

Rheumatology 2002; 41: 490-495

Y. Endo, I. Negishi and O. Ishikawa

Department of Dermatology, Gunma University School of Medicine, 3-39-22 Showa-machi, Maebashi, Gunma 371-8511, Japan

Objectives. Microchimerism of foetal cells occurs during most pregnancies. Two autoimmune diseases, systemic sclerosis (SSc) and Sjögren’s syndrome (SS), have many clinical and pathological similarities to chronic graft-vs-host disease (GVHD). These findings suggest that anti-maternal graft-vs-host reaction by foetal cells may be involved in the pathogenesis of the diseases. To explore this hypothesis, we examined foetal DNA in peripheral blood of 59 women and in salivary glands from 28 women.

Methods. DNA extracted from peripheral blood and the affected minor salivary glands was analysed for the Y-chromosome-specific gene using a nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. In the minor salivary gland specimens, the Y-chromosome-positive foetal cells were identified by in situ hybridization with a Y-chromosome-specific DNA probe.

Results. In peripheral blood, there was no significant difference between controls and patients with SSc or SS. In salivary glands, foetal DNA was detected in 11 of 20 women with SS but in only one of eight normal controls using PCR test. Additionally, foetal cells were clearly detected in three out of eight women with SS by the use of in situ hybridization.

Conclusions. The identification of foetal cells in salivary glands suggests that anti-maternal GVHD may be involved in the development of SS.

KEY WORDS: Systemic sclerosis, Sjögren’s syndrome, Foetal cells, Microchimerism, Y-chromosome.

Correspondence to: I. Negishi.

© 2002 British Society for Rheumatology

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