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Summary

The placenta constitutes a physical and immunological barrier against invading infectious agents and has been suggested to be a pregnancy-specific component of the innate immune system. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence and regulation of Toll-like receptors-2 and -4 (TLR2 and TLR4) in the human placenta, because these receptors are believed to be important for immune responses against pathogens. Twenty-eight placentas from normal term pregnancies were analysed with immunohistochemistry, which showed a strong immunoreactivity for TLR2 and TLR4 in the villous and the intermediate trophoblasts. The regulation of TLR2 and TLR4 by microbial stimulus was assessed by incubating explants of term chorionic villi with zymosan or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and analysed with real-time reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction. Stimulation with zymosan and LPS readily induced interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-8 cytokine production in the placenta cultures, whereas TLR2 and TLR4 mRNA and protein expression remained at the same high level as in unstimulated explants. These data suggests a novel mechanism for the fetoplacental unit to interact with micro-organisms.