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Arthritis Rheum. 2000 Nov;43(11):2598-605.

Increased numbers of microchimeric cells of fetal origin are associated with dermal fibrosis in mice following injection of vinyl chloride.

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1
Division of Rheumatology, Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107-5541, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To develop a murine model for use in examining the role of microchimeric cells and certain chemical exposures in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis (SSc).

METHODS:

Female BALB/cJ retired breeder mice were bled before and after vinyl chloride injection. The DNA from their white blood cells was obtained, and the number of microchimeric cell equivalents was determined by quantitative polymerase chain reaction using DNA primers specific for the H-2Kb gene, a sequence not found in BALB/cJ mice. Skin was obtained at autopsy, embedded in paraffin, sectioned, and stained with Masson's trichrome. Hydroxyproline analyses were performed on 4-mm skin biopsy samples.

RESULTS:

Microchimeric cells were identified and quantitated before and after 20 daily intraperitoneal injections of vinyl chloride. The number of microchimeric cells in the peripheral blood increased an average of 48-fold after treatment with vinyl chloride. Histologic examination of the skin of these same mice (which had an increased number of microchimeric cells) showed inflammation, with abundant fibroblasts and a heavy mononuclear infiltration in the dermis. The collagen fibers appeared densely packed and disorganized. Histologic examination of the skin of untreated retired breeder mice and treated virgin mice appeared normal. Quantitative assays to determine the collagen content of skin biopsy samples obtained from treated microchimeric mice compared with nontreated microchimeric or with treated nonmicrochimeric mice showed a 2-3-fold increase in collagen content in the treated microchimeric mice. Extraordinary splenomegaly was present in the vinyl chloride-treated microchimeric mice, accompanied by cellular infiltration and fibrosis.

CONCLUSION:

The results suggest that vinyl chloride injections into BALB/cJ retired breeder mice lead to activation of microchimeric cells, which causes the cells to divide and multiply. The correlation between the 48-fold increase in microchimeric cells and the appearance of dermal inflammation and fibrosis similar to that of graft-versus-host disease suggests that activated microchimeric cells may be a necessary factor in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases such as SSc.

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