Problem The fetal inflammatory response syndrome (FIRS) is considered the counterpart of the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), but similarities in their regulatory mechanisms are unclear. This study characterizes the fetal mRNA transcriptome of peripheral leukocytes to identify key biological processes and pathways involved in FIRS.
Method of study Umbilical cord blood from preterm neonates with FIRS (funisitis, plasma IL-6 >11 pg/mL; n = 10) and neonates with no evidence of inflammation (n = 10) was collected at birth.
Results Microarray analysis of leukocyte RNA revealed differential expression of 541 unique genes, changes confirmed by qRT-PCR for 41 or 44 genes tested. Similar to SIRS and sepsis, ontological and pathway analyses yielded significant enrichment of biological processes including antigen processing and presentation, immune response, and processes critical to cellular metabolism. Results are comparable with microarray studies of endotoxin challenge models and pediatric sepsis, identifying 25 genes across all studies.
Conclusion This study is the first to profile genome-wide expression in FIRS, which demonstrates a substantial degree of similarity with SIRS despite differences in fetal and adult immune systems.