Regulatory T Cells: Regulators of Life

Authors

  • Anne Schumacher,

    1. Department of Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology, Medical Faculty, Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany
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  • Ana Claudia Zenclussen

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology, Medical Faculty, Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany
    • Correspondence

      Ana Claudia Zenclussen, Experimental Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical Faculty, Otto-von-Guericke University, Gerhart-Hauptmann-Straße 35, 39108 Magdeburg, Germany.

      E-mail: ana.zenclussen@med.ovgu.de

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Abstract

Pregnancy still represents one of the most fascinating paradoxical phenomena in science. Immediately after conception, the maternal immune system is challenged by the presence of foreign paternal antigens in the semen. This triggers mechanisms of recognition and tolerance that all together allow the embryo to implant and later the fetus to develop. Tolerance mechanisms to maintain pregnancy are of special interest as they defy the classical immunology rules. Several cell types, soluble factors, and immune regulatory molecules have been proposed to contribute to fetal tolerance. Within these, regulatory T cells (Treg) are one of the most studied immune cell populations lately. They are reportedly involved in fetal acceptance. Here, we summarize several aspects of Treg biology in normal and pathologic pregnancies focusing on Treg frequencies, subtypes, antigen specificity, and activity as well as on factors influencing Treg generation, recruitment, and function. This review also highlights the contribution of fetal Treg in tolerance induction and addresses the role of Treg in autoimmune diseases and infections during gestation. Finally, the potential of Treg as a predictive marker for the success of assisted reproductive techniques and for therapeutic interventions is discussed.

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