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46,XX/46,XY is a chimeric genetic condition characterized by the presence of some cells that express a 46,XX karyotype and some cells that express a 46,XY karyotype in a single human being. The cause of the condition lies in utero with the aggregation of two distinct blastocysts or zygotes (one of which expresses 46,XX and the other of which expresses 46,XY) into a single embryo,[1] which subsequently leads to the development of a single individual with two distinct cell lines, instead of a pair of fraternal twins. 46,XX/46,XY chimeras are the result of the merging of two non-identical twins. This is not to be confused with mosaicism or hybridism, neither of which are chimeric conditions. Since individuals with the condition have two cell lines of the opposite sex, it can also be considered an intersex condition.

In humans, sexual dimorphism is a consequence of the XY sex-determination system. In normal prenatal sex differentiation, the male and female embryo is anatomically identical until week 7 of the pregnancy, when the presence or the absence of the SRY gene on the Y chromosome causes the undetermined gonadal tissue to undergo differentiation and eventually become a pair of testes or ovaries respectively.[citation needed] The cells of the developing testes produce anti-müllerian hormone (AMH) and androgens, causing the reproductive tract and the genitals of the fetus to differentiate.[2] As individuals with 46,XX/46,XY partially express the SRY gene, the normal process by which an embryo normally develops into a phenotypic male or phenotypic female may be significantly affected causing variation in the gonads, the reproductive tract and the genitals.[3] Despite this, there have been cases of completely normal sex differentiation occurring in 46,XX/46,XY individuals reported in the medical literature.[4][5][6] 46,XX/46,XY chimerism can be identified during pregnancy by prenatal screening or in early childhood through genetic testing and direct observation.[7]

The rate of incidence is difficult to determine as the majority of diagnoses go unreported in the literature.

Signs and symptoms[edit]


46,XX/46,XY is associated with a wide spectrum of different physical presentations, ranging from what was formerly known as "true hermaphroditism" [8][9][10][3] to a completely normal male or female phenotype.[4][5][6] Due to this variation, genetic testing is the only way to reliably make a diagnosis.

46,XX/46,XY is possible if there is direct observation of one or more of the following:

  1. Small phallus midway in size between a clitoris and a penis[3]
  2. Incompletely closed urogenital opening (shallow vagina)[3]
  3. Abnormal urethra opening on the perineum[3]

Though some individuals with 46,XX/46,XY have ovarian tissue and testicular tissue simultaneously, there have been no reported cases of both gonads being functional in the same person, with the portion of fertile cases mostly favoring functionality of the ovarian tissue.[7]

At puberty, a mix of male and female characteristics may emerge. Some individuals will experience deepening of the voice and secondary hair development, while others may experience breast tissue development.[7]

Segmentation of skin (distinct patches of skin) has also been observed. However, this trait is not unique to 46,XX/46,XY chimerism. It has also been observed in other types of chimerism.[3]


Individuals with the condition do not experience cognitive impairment.[1]

Genetic mechanism[edit]

46,XX/46,XY is an example of tetragametic chimerism because it requires four gametes – two sperm and two ova.

  • 46,XX/46,XY is most commonly explained by the in utero combination of two fertilized zygotes. Two ova from the mother are fertilized by two sperm from the father. One sperm contains an X chromosome; the other contains a Y chromosome. The result is that a zygote with an XY genotype and a zygote with an XX genotype are produced. Under normal circumstances, the two resulting zygotes would have gone on to become fraternal twins. However, in 46,XX/46,XY, the two zygotes fuse shortly following fertilization to become a two-cell zygote made up of two different nuclei. The zygotes fuse early enough that there is no risk of them developing into conjoined twins.[11] Variations of this mechanism include fertilization of an ovum and its first or second polar body by two sperm.[12]
  • 46,XX/46,XY can also be explained by a mosaic-based mechanism. A single zygote is formed from the fertilization of a normal X ovum by an aneuploid XY sperm. The resulting XXY zygote divides to give three cell lines: 46,XX/46,XY/47,XXY. The aneuploid 47,XXY cell line is eliminated during early embryogenesis. The 46,XX/46,XY cell lines remain and go on to become a chimeric individual.[11]
  • 46,XX/46,XY can also arise when a haploid ovum undergoes a round of mitosis, and the subsequent daughter cells are fertilized by an X and a Y sperm, respectively.[12]


Diagnosing a chimera is particularly difficult due to the random distribution of 46,XX and 46,XY cells within the body. An organ might be made up of a mix of 46,XX and 46,XY, but it may also be made up entirely of one genotype only. When that is the case, no abnormalities are noted and other types of tissues need to be analyzed.[12]

Pre-birth testing[edit]

  1. Ultrasound - looking for ambiguous genitalia[12]
  2. Amniocentesis - looking for a karyotype of 46,XX/46,XY[12]
  3. Cord blood sampling - looking for a karyotype of 46,XX/46,XY

Post-birth testing[edit]

  1. Blood testing - looking for red blood cells of different blood types[1]
  2. Tissue sampling - looking for more than one set of DNA within the sample[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Aruna, N; Purushottam, RM; Rajangam, S (2006). "46,XX/46,XY chimerism - a case report". J Anat Soc India. 55 (1): 24–26.
  2. ^ "Sexual differentiation in humans", Wikipedia, 2019-10-11, retrieved 2019-10-23
  3. ^ a b c d e f Fitzgerald, PH; Donald, RA; Kirk, RL (1979). "A true hermaphrodite dispermic chimera with 46, XX and 46, XY karyotypes". Clin Genet. 15 (1): 89–96. doi:10.1111/j.1399-0004.1979.tb02032.x. PMID 759058. S2CID 39280592.
  4. ^ a b Schoenle, E (1983). "46,XX/46,XY chimerism in a phenotypically normal man". Hum Genet. 64 (1): 86–89. doi:10.1007/bf00289485. PMID 6575956. S2CID 25946104.
  5. ^ a b Binkhorst, Mathijs; de Leeuw, Nicole; Otten, Barto J. (January 2009). "A healthy, female chimera with 46,XX/46,XY karyotype". Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism. 22 (1): 97–102. doi:10.1515/jpem.2009.22.1.97. ISSN 0334-018X. PMID 19344081. S2CID 6074854.
  6. ^ a b Gencík, A.; Genciková, A.; Hrubisko, M.; Mergancová, O. (1980). "Chimerism 46,XX/46,XY in a phenotypic female". Human Genetics. 55 (3): 407–408. doi:10.1007/bf00290226. ISSN 0340-6717. PMID 7203474. S2CID 9117759.
  7. ^ a b c Malan, V; Gesny, R; Morichon-Delvallez, N; Aubry, MC; Benachi, A; Sanlaville, D; Turleau, C; Bonnefont, JP; Fekete-Nihoul, C (2007). "Prenatal diagnosis and outcome of a 46,XX/46,XY chimera: a case report". Hum Reprod. 22 (4): 1037–1041. doi:10.1093/humrep/del480. PMID 17272360.
  8. ^ Shah, V. C.; Krishna Murthy, D. S.; Roy, S.; Contractor, P. M.; Shah, A. V. (November 1982). "True hermaphrodite: 46, XX/46, XY, clinical cytogenetic and histopathological studies". Indian Journal of Pediatrics. 49 (401): 885–890. doi:10.1007/bf02976984. ISSN 0019-5456. PMID 7182365. S2CID 41204037.
  9. ^ Farag, T I; Al-Awadi, S A; Tippett, P; el-Sayed, M; Sundareshan, T S; Al-Othman, S A; el-Badramany, M H (December 1987). "Unilateral true hermaphrodite with 46,XX/46,XY dispermic chimerism". Journal of Medical Genetics. 24 (12): 784–786. doi:10.1136/jmg.24.12.784. ISSN 0022-2593. PMC 1050410. PMID 3430558.
  10. ^ Amrani, M.; Renoirte, P. (1990). "[True hermaphroditism. Late diagnosis. Surgical treatment and a 15-year follow-up]". Chirurgie Pédiatrique. 31 (4–5): 279–283. ISSN 0180-5738. PMID 2083468.
  11. ^ a b Niu, DM; Pan, CC; Lin, CY; Hwang, BT; Chung, MY (2002). "Mosaic or chimera? revisiting an old hypothesis about the cause of 46,XX/46,XY hermaphrodite". J Pediatr. 140 (6): 732–735. doi:10.1067/mpd.2002.124321. PMID 12072878.
  12. ^ a b c d e Chen, CP; Chern, SR; Sheu, JC; Lin, SP; Hsu, CY; Chang, TY; Lee, CC; Wang, W; Chen, CH (2005). "Prenatal diagnosis, sonographic findings and molecular genetic analysis of a 46,XX/46,XY true hermaphrodite chimera". Prenat Diagn. 25 (6): 502–506. doi:10.1002/pd.1181. PMID 15966046. S2CID 5757722.

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