• Decidua;
  • inteferon-γ;
  • interleukin-10;
  • interleukin-4;
  • pregnancy

PROBLEM: A T-helper cell type 2 (Th2) cytokine dominated microenvironment has been predicted to be crucial for successful pregnancy. However, little information is available about local cytokine secretion in the human decidua. We determined the spontaneous secretion of interleukin-4 (IL-4), interferon-γ (IFN-γ) and IL-10 by decidual mononuclear cells at the single cell level and compared it with their secretion by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in the first trimester of pregnancy.

METHODS OF STUDY: The cytokine secretion from decidual and blood cells was detected by a sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot-forming cell (ELISPOT)-assay.

RESULTS: Cells secreting IL-4 (median 153, range 8–530), IL-10 (median 188, range 32–1600) and IFN-γ (median 123, range 15–1140) were detected in all decidual and blood samples. The cytokine secretion showed a co-linear pattern in both the blood and decidua, i.e. when one cytokine was secreted at high levels, the others followed the trend. No correlation was found between the number of cytokine secreting cells in blood and decidua for any of the cytokines.

CONCLUSIONS: Interleukin-4 and IL-10 are locally secreted in the decidua early during normal pregnancy, probably counteracting the fetal rejecting effects of co-expressed IFN-γ. The cytokine secretion by blood cells does not generally reflect the local secretion pattern during first trimester pregnancy.