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Keywords:

  • anergy: suppression, tolerance;
  • regulatory T cells (Treg);
  • T cells

Summary

CD4+ CD25+ T regulatory cells (TReg), suppress antigen-specific immune responses and are important for allograft tolerance. During pregnancy the mother tolerates an allograft expressing paternal antigens (the fetus) requiring substantial changes in immune regulation over a programmed period of time. We analysed whether immune-suppressive TReg cells were altered during pregnancy and therefore might play a part in this tolerant state. The presence of TReg cells was assessed in the blood of 25 non-pregnant, 63 pregnant and seven postnatal healthy women by flow cytometry. We observed an increase in circulating TReg cells during early pregnancy, peaking during the second trimester and then a decline postpartum. Isolated CD25+ CD4+ cells expressed FoxP3 messenger RNA, a marker of TReg cells, and suppressed proliferative responses of autologous CD4+ CD25 T cells to allogeneic dendritic cells. These data support the concept that normal pregnancy is associated with an elevation in the number of TReg cells which may be important in maintaining materno-fetal tolerance.