A Comparison of Flow Cytometry and Microcytotoxicity for the Evaluation of Alloimmune Therapy in Patients With Recurrent Spontaneous Abortions


Reproductive Immunology Associates, 6850 Sepulveda Blvd., No. 210, Van Nuys, CA 91405.


PROBLEM: There is substantial data that support the efficacy of paternal leukocyte immunization (PLI) for the treatment of alloimmune mediated miscarriage; however, there is confusion regarding the laboratory test that should be performed to determine levels of maternal anti-paternal leukocyte antibodies (MAPLA).

METHOD: Popular methodologies employed include: 1) microcytotoxicity (MCX), 2) mixed lymphocyte culture (MLC), and 3) cell flow cytometry crossmatch (FCXM). Cell flow cytometry crossmatch correlates well with the more difficult MLC assay although the former proves the more sensitive study. This work compares the MCX assays with FCXM. The study group consisted of ten women who had a history of three or more spontaneous abortions (SABs). All ten had very low levels (<10%) of MAPLA as measured by FCXM. Following PLI all subjects demonstrated elevated levels (>50%) of MAPLA by FCXM. At 12 weeks gestation, sera were simultaneously measured for MAPLA by MCX and FCXM.

RESULTS: Although all ten patients had very high levels of MAPLA by FCXM during pregnancy, five of ten had antibodies to HLA Class I and two of ten had antibodies to HLA Class II paternal antigens by MCX. Furthermore, all patients who were positive by MCX to paternal Class I antigens were also positive to Class I antigens not seen in either parent. Both patients who were positive by MCX to paternal Class II antigens were also positive to maternal Class II antigens. Notable is that all ten women eventually delivered healthy infants.

CONCLUSION: Based on this preliminary study, the MCX assay is neither sensitive or reliable enough to determine the need and/or to monitor the effectiveness of PLI. Flow cytometry should be the modality of choice when determining the need for alloimmunotherapy and to monitor the effectiveness of treatment.