Research ArticleFETAL IMMUNITY

Alloreactive fetal T cells promote uterine contractility in preterm labor via IFN-γ and TNF-α

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Science Translational Medicine  25 Apr 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 438, eaan2263
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aan2263

Feisty fetal T cells can rebel in utero

Typically, when the fetal-maternal interface is examined, most of the focus is on the maternal cells tolerating the fetus. However, although the adaptive immune system of the fetus is not fully mature, fetal T cells exist and may recognize maternal cells. Frascoli et al. compared cord blood samples from pregnancies that ended in spontaneous preterm labor to those that were full term. They saw an increase in inflammatory cytokines and TH1 central memory fetal T cells in the preterm labor cases, as well as stronger reactions to maternal antigens. Experiments in vitro and in a mouse model suggested that production of TNF-α and IFN-γ by these fetal T cells may actually instigate preterm labor. Their results show that fetal T cells cannot be assumed to be inert and, perhaps, can influence the health of the pregnancy.

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