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Most of diaplacentally transferred allergen is retained in the placenta


Zsolt Szépfalusi, Department of Pediatrics, Medical University of Vienna Währinger Gürtel 18-20 1090 Vienna, Austria. E-mail:


Background Transplacental transfer of nutritive and inhalant allergens has been described being potentially responsible for a series of events leading to antigen-specific immune responses in the fetus. As such, cord blood T cell responses appear ubiquitously. However, studies failed to reveal a consistent dose–response relationship between antenatal allergen exposure and allergen-specific cellular reactivity in cord blood.

Objective To examine the transfer process of allergens (ovalbumin (OVA), β-lactoglobulin (BLG), birch pollen allergen Bet v1) in placental tissue (BeWo cell line, ex vivo placenta model).

Methods The choriocarcinoma cell line BeWo was used to study the allergen uptake and transfer experiments in vitro. In the ex vivo placenta model the contribution of different placental compartments was evaluated. For this, immuno-histochemistry, immuno-electronmicroscopy and ELISA techniques were applied using monoclonal antibodies to Bet v1, OVA and -BLG.

Results In vitro transfer studies on a BeWo cell-layer revealed an intracellular allergen uptake and a trans-trophoblastic allergen transfer, which was temperature- and concentration dependent, pH sensitive and asymmetric. Allergen-specific staining of placental tissue after allergen perfusion (BLG) demonstrated bulk of the allergen in the syncytio-trophoblastic cell layer and minor staining in the villous stroma and in the endothelium of fetal vessels. Immunogold staining revealed an accumulation of the perfused allergen in the trophoblastic basement membrane.

Conclusion In vitro/ex vivo trans-trophoblastic and trans-placental allergen transfer is shown with an accumulation of most of the allergen in placental tissues, potentially explaining the missing direct dose–response relationship between prenatal (maternal) allergen exposure and allergen-specific cellular reactivity in cord blood.

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