To better understand fetomaternal cell trafficking during pregnancy, we used a mouse model to determine the cell surface markers expressed on fetal cells, based on the hypothesis that fetal progenitor cells have the capacity to repair maternal organs, whereas more differentiated cells might initiate graft versus host disease. Wild-type females were mated to either homozygous or hemizygous transgenic males and euthanized in the peripartum period. Using dual color flow cytometry, we analyzed fetal transgene positive cells for the presence of nine markers (ITGAM, ITGB1, PECAM, CD34, CD44, PTPRC, ENG, SLAMF1, and CXCR4) to begin to identify the phenotype and degree of differentiation of fetal cells in nine maternal organs (lung, liver, spleen, blood, bone marrow, kidney, heart, thymus, and brain). Fetal cells were found in all maternal organs following either type of mating, albeit always at a higher frequency following mating with homozygous males. Some organs (e.g., lung and liver) had a wide variety of fetal cell markers present, while other organs (e.g., bone marrow and spleen) had a skewed distribution of fetal cell markers. Fetal cells in the murine pregnant female are diverse. Our results suggest that the fetal cells comprise a mixed population of progenitor and differentiated cells, with different relative proportions in different maternal organs. Future studies will address whether fetal cells cross the placental barrier in a differentiated state or as a homogenous population and subsequently differentiate in target maternal organs.
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