Early and Accurate Sex Determination by qPCR of Y Chromosome Repetitive Sequence (YRS) In Cell-Free Fetal DNA from Maternal Plasma: Early Fetal Sex Determination

Ditte Jacobsen, Grethe Risum Krog, Frederik Banch Clausen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Circulating cell-free fetal DNA (cffDNA) provides the opportunity for noninvasive prenatal diagnosis. Early knowledge of the fetal sex is essential in cases with a risk of a sex-linked genetic disease. A reliable and highly sensitive sex determination test is required for first trimester testing because of the low amounts of cffDNA.

First trimester blood samples from 326 pregnant women were analyzed by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) for the presence of Y chromosome repetitive sequence (YRS). Blood samples were collected from gestational weeks 4–12. Fetal sex was predicted on the basis of results from the YRS assay of cffDNA extracted from maternal plasma. The predicted sex was compared with the phenotypic sex of the newborn baby (n = 294).

There was high concordance between the test results from the YRS assay and the actual sex at birth. There were no false-positive results, indicating agreement between male YRS results and male sex at birth. Two results were false negative (from gestational weeks 4 and 6) predicting female fetuses, when the actual sex at birth was male. Overall, the sensitivity of the YRS assay was 98.6% (95% CI, 95.1%–99.8%), specificity was 100% (95% CI, 97.5%–100%), and accuracy was 99.3% (95% CI, 97.5%–99.9%). From 7 weeks of gestation, sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy were 100%.

This study shows that qPCR can be used to detect and quantify repetitive DNA sequences from 0.3 genome equivalents per milliliter of plasma. Prenatal sex determination by qPCR of YRS in cffDNA from maternal plasma was reliable and robust with cffDNA extracted from 1 mL of nonhemolyzed plasma, with a plasma equivalent per PCR of 167 μL. The YRS assay can be used for early noninvasive prenatal sex determination from a gestational age of 7 weeks.
Original languageEnglish
MagazineThe Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)346-356
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • clinical assessment methods, lab technology and radiography

Cite this