Monocytes are primed to produce the Th1 type cytokine IL-12 in normal human pregnancy: an intracellular flow cytometric analysis of peripheral blood mononuclear cells


and current address: I. L. Sargent, Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynacology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU.


This paper considers both monocytes and peripheral blood lymphocytes as potential targets for maternal immunological modulation in pregnancy. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from non-pregnant and normal pregnant donors were stimulated in vitro, and cytokine production detected intracellularly by flow cytometry. It was found that monocyte production of TNF-α was unaltered in pregnancy, while production of IL-12 was significantly enhanced. In contrast, production of the Th1 type cytokine IFN-γ was suppressed in the lymphocyte subsets: CD4+ T helper cells and CD56+ NK cells. Production of the Th2 type cytokine IL-4 in CD4+ cells was not significantly altered in pregnancy. These data suggest that the concept that pregnancy is a ‘Th2 phenomenon’ cannot be generalized to the function of all aspects of maternal cellular immunity as, paradoxically, circulating monocytes are ‘primed’ to produce the Th1 cytokine IL-12. Furthermore, these data support the hypothesis that components of maternal innate immunity are activated in normal pregnancy.