Twenty-four male patients grafted for various pathologies with the marrow of a female donor and presenting a complete donor-type hematopoiesis when analyzed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of minisatellite sequences 33.6.3 and MS51 (0.1% to 1% sensitivity) were studied by the highly sensitive technique of PCR amplification of the Y-chromosome-specific DYZ1 sequence (0.01% sensitivity). Residual recipient male cells were detected in all peripheral blood samples collected within 1 year posttransplantation. These residual cells were present in both the lymphocyte and polymorphonuclear cell fractions when such a separation was performed by Ficoll gradient centrifugation and, for samples of 13 of 15 patients, at comparable levels in both fractions. In 3 samples collected from 3 patients 4 months or more posttransplantation, residual recipient cells were detected in the polymorphonuclear cell fraction but were present at a lower level or were undetectable in the lymphocyte fraction. These cells are of hematopoietic origin because they were detected at equivalent levels in whole blood and in B and T lymphocytes sorted with antibody-coated magnetic beads. They were not detected in samples collected more than 15 months posttransplantation for 6 of 7 patients. The persistence of residual recipient cells within 1 year posttransplantation is not restricted to male patients receiving a transplant from a female donor because they were also detected in 2 female patients using an allele-specific amplification method for the thyroid peroxydase gene that also has a high sensitivity (0.01%). Our results indicate that at least residual recipient myeloid progenitors and possibly totipotent hematopoietic stem cells may survive intensive pretransplant conditioning regimen and support a transient residual hematopoiesis of the host posttransplantation.

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