Background We have recently obtained evidence for the presence of immune complexes (IC) in cord blood from allergic and non-allergic mothers. Such complexes could conceivably provide the fetus with the initial trigger for the priming of the T cell system already in utero.
Objective To relate the presence of Fel d 1–IgG IC to T cell cytokine production in cord blood mononuclear cells (CBMCs) after stimulation with cat allergen.
Methods CBMC obtained from babies of 15 allergic and 22 non-allergic mothers were cultured in the presence of cat allergen. The production of IFN-γ, IL-5, IL-10 and IL-13 was determined by ELISA. Furthermore, IgG1 and IgG4 antibodies to cat allergen in cord blood samples were measured by ELISA. A more sensitive ELISA was used to measure Fel d 1–IgG IC.
Results The prevalence and levels of IC were similar in cord blood from children of allergic and non-allergic mothers. The production of IL-5, IL-10. IL-13 and IFN-γ by CBMC was not influenced by maternal atopy, but IFN-γ was less commonly detected in samples with IC. There was no association between the presence of IC and any other cytokines. The levels of IgG1 and IgG4 antibodies were similar in both groups, and tended to be associated with the presence of IC.
Conclusion Immune complexes in cord blood may represent a normal mechanism for inducing primary immune responses, as the responses in babies from allergic and non-allergic mothers were largely similar. Low levels of IFN-γ seems to be related with the presence of IC in cord blood.