A large-scale evaluation of amnio-PCR for the rapid prenatal diagnosis of fetal trisomy




Traditional chromosome preparation from amniotic fluid samples often involves lengthy culture procedures in order to obtain cells for analysis. Multiplex quantitative fluorescent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a new molecular biological technique capable of quantifying in-situ DNA without the need for cell culture. Our objective was to test the reliability of PCR using fetal DNA from amniotic fluid (amnio-PCR) for the rapid prenatal diagnosis of the common trisomies.


This was a large prospective study of 5000 amniocentesis specimens. Multiplex quantitative fluorescent PCR was performed specifically for short tandem repeat sequences within chromosomes 21, 18, 13, X and Y. All amniocentesis samples were subsequently analyzed by traditional karyotyping methods.


Amnio-PCR detected all 89 major autosomal trisomies in this cohort. Diagnosis of sex chromosome anomalies was accurate for cases involving first meiotic division nondisjunction. However, further markers were necessary to detect sex chromosome anomalies arising from second meiotic division nondisjunction, highlighting the importance of using specific markers that enable the quantification of both the X and the Y chromosomes simultaneously.


Rapid prenatal diagnosis of trisomies 21, 18, and 13 and the sex chromosome anomalies using amnio-PCR is a reliable technique that aids the clinical management of pregnancy. The speed of the methodology will help to minimize the period of parental anxiety in the wait for a diagnostic test result. Copyright © 2001 International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology