Background: Inhibin A, an established prenatal marker of Down syndrome (DS), exists in the maternal circulation in a number of isoforms. The present study explored whether specific inhibin A isoforms may be selectively increased in DS, offering the prospect of improved marker performance. Methods: Second trimester maternal serum, placental extracts and amniotic fluid (AF) pools from both normal and DS pregnancies were fractionated by a combined immunoaffinity (IA) chromatography, preparative polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (Prep-PAGE) and electroelution procedure. Inhibins A, B and pro-αC were determined in the eluted fractions by specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) and the profiles of immunoactivity (IA) characterized in terms of molecular weight (MW) and percentage recovery. Results: The MW patterns of inhibin A and pro-αC in maternal serum and AF were similar between DS and control pregnancies, both showing peaks between 25-40 k and approximately 65 k. AF contained, in addition, a higher proportion of <30 k inhibins A and B, and <25 k pro-αC forms. There were large differences in the inhibin forms present in DS placentae, with more 70 k and less 30-40 k inhibin A than in controls. Conclusions: The present data suggest that the processing, cleavage or secretion of inhibin MW forms by the DS placenta differs from normal. However, these differences are not reflected in maternal serum and so improvements in serum screening will not be afforded by measuring specific inhibin A isoforms.
- Trisomy 21