Background: During the third trimester of pregnancy multiple sclerosis (MS) disease activity is reduced. It is not fully understood which factors mediate this disease amelioration. Objective: To study alterations of the monocyte transcriptome during pregnancy in MS patients, using a genomewide approach to identify differentially regulated genes. Methods: Women with MS and healthy controls were longitudinally studied, including a visit before pregnancy. Results: RNA-microarray analysis was performed in six patients. We found a significant increase of CD64 (Fc gamma receptor 1a, FcgR1a) during the third trimester compared with baseline, confirmed by RT-PCR in a group of ten patients. Analysis with Ingenuity software was performed using all genes expression of which was altered at least 1.5-fold in at least five out of six patients. Major networks that were altered during MS pregnancy were: cell-to-cell signalling and interaction, immune response, and cell signalling. From the genes selected for Ingenuity analysis, seven additional candidate genes, selected for their biological interest, were tested using RT-PCR in ten patients with MS and nine controls. We found an increased expression of JAK2 and STAT1 directly postpartum in patients with MS and in controls. Conclusion: The increased CD64 expression during pregnancy is indicative of enhanced innate immune functions.

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Multiple Sclerosis: clinical and laboratory research
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam