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Stem Cells Dev. 2010 Dec;19(12):1819-30. doi: 10.1089/scd.2010.0046. Epub 2010 Sep 13.

Pregnancy-associated progenitor cells differentiate and mature into neurons in the maternal brain.

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Institute of Medical Biology, Singapore, Singapore.


Bidirectional cell trafficking between fetus and mother during pregnancy is a well-established phenomenon observed in placental vertebrates including humans. Although studies have shown that transmigratory fetal cells, also termed pregnancy-associated progenitor cells (PAPCs), can integrate into multiple maternal organs, the integration, long-term survival, and differentiation of PAPCs in the brain has not been extensively studied. Using a murine model of fetomaternal microchimerism, we show that PAPCs integrated and persisted in several areas of the maternal brain for up to 7 months postpartum. Besides expressing neural stem cell or immature neuronal markers, PAPCs were observed to express mature neuronal markers, indicating that PAPCs adopted a neuronal fate. Further, PAPCs also displayed morphologically neuronal maturation by an increasing axonal/dendritic complexity over time. Therefore, PAPCs seem to undergo a molecular and morphological maturation program similar to that observed during adult neurogenesis. We provide evidence that neuronal gene expression of PAPCs was not a consequence of cell fusion with maternal neurons. In addition, in mothers with experimentally induced Parkinson's disease (PD), the frequency of PAPCs within the hippocampus initially increased whereas long-term presence of PAPCs was compromised. Also, the spatial distribution of PAPCs within the hippocampus was altered in mothers with PD. Thus, the disease context influenced the initial attraction, long-term survival, and spatial distribution of PAPCs, which may have wider implications on cell replacement strategies in human neurodegenerative diseases such as PD.

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