Down syndrome (DS) is an abnormality of the 21st chromosome that commonly occurs in children born to older women. Thus, amniotic fluid (AF) is usually collected from such women for prenatal diagnosis. This study analyzed human AF supernatants (AFS) using a mass spectrometric (MS) approach to search for candidate biomarkers of a DS pregnancy. The AFS were collected from older pregnant women at weeks 16-18 of their gestation by amniocentesis for cytogenetic analysis. The AFS from the pregnancies carrying DS (n=4) or chromosomally normal (n=6) fetuses, as revealed by the cytogenetic analysis, were then subjected to global protein profiling based on liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS). Affinity chromatography was also applied prior to the LC-ESI-MS/MS to minimize the masking effect of highly abundant albumin and immunoglobulin and thereby increase the diversity of the identified proteins. As a result, at least 30 new AFS proteins were identified and 44 AFS proteins were found to be differentially expressed between the DS and normal cases, where 6 of the proteins were unique to the DS cases and 11 were unique to the chromosomally normal cases. In addition, in the DS cases, 19 AFS proteins were downregulated and 8 were upregulated to varying degrees. A Western blot analysis confirmed the LC-ESI-MS/MS data, indicating that the combined detection of apolipoprotein A-II (apoA-II) and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) could be a potential tool for diagnosing DS cases.
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