Background The immune status and allergen exposure of the mother may influence the immune response in the offspring after birth. This relationship may be important both for allergen avoidance strategies and, alternatively, for allergy prophylaxis by allergen exposure of the mother.
Objective The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of allergen immunization of the mother during pregnancy and postpartum, in relation to the allergy-related immune response (IgE) and the non-allergy-related (IgG2a) response in the offspring.
Methods Pregnant NIH/OlaHsd females were immunized three times during pregnancy and one time postpartum with ovalbumin and the adjuvant Al(OH)3, and the offspring's ovalbumin-specific IgE, IgG1 and IgG2a responses were measured after challenge with the same allergen as young adults. Ovalbumin-specific IgE, IgG1 and IgG2a responses were also analysed in offspring of NIH/OlaHsd females immunized once at different times during pregnancy: about 3 days into pregnancy, mid-pregnancy (10 days into pregnancy) and about 4 days before giving birth (17 days into pregnancy).
Results Allergen immunization of mother during pregnancy and postpartum significantly reduced the IgE response in the progenies, whereas the IgG2a response to the same allergen was increased. Allergen immunization of the mother 3 days into pregnancy resulted in a significantly lower IgE response in offspring compared with the response in offspring of non-immunized mothers and in offspring of mothers immunized 17 days into pregnancy.
Conclusions Maternal allergen immunization might favour selection for an allergen-specific Th1-dependent antibody response in the offspring. Our results indicate that IgE suppression is stronger after maternal allergen exposure during early pregnancy than after exposure in late pregnancy.