• Annexin II;
  • fetomaternal interface;
  • immunosuppression;
  • multiparae;
  • placental membranes;
  • pregnancy;
  • retroplacental serum

PROBLEM: Syncytiotrophoblast microvillous plasma membranes (StMPM) are potent suppressors of lymphoproliferation in vitro. We have previously shown that soluble annexin II (AII) is present at higher levels in retroplacental serum (RPS) than in peripheral serum, and that soluble AII has an immunosuppressive effect. The aims of this study were to determine whether AII can be released from StMPM and whether soluble AII from StMPM exerts any immunosuppressive effect.

METHOD OF STUDY: Isolated StMPM were incubated in growth medium for 18 hr and supernatants were prepared by ultracentrifugation. Soluble AII was detected by immunoblotting. StMPM, StMPM supernatant, and affinity-purified AII were analysed in a lymphoproliferation assay for immunomodulating activity.

RESULTS: AII heavy chain and its p11 light chain were detected both in StMPM supernatant and in RPS after removal of StMPM particles by ultracentrifugation. StMPM, StMPM supernatant, and purified AII suppressed lymphoproliferation in a dose-dependent manner. Absorption of AII from StMPM supernatant reduced the suppressive activity. The suppressive effect of StMPM supernatant and purified AII was completely reversed by heating at 100°C for 30 min or by adding recombinant interleukin-2 at 100 units/ml. Although StMPM and affinity-purified AII suppressed the proliferation of lymphocytes from all donors tested, StMPM supernatant suppressed the proliferation of lymphocytes from 12 of 23 donors. Six of eight female non-suppressed donors were multiparae, whereas five of five female suppressed donors were nulliparae.

CONCLUSIONS: Annexin II is released by isolated placental membranes in vitro and is present in RPS, indicating in vivo release of AII at the fetomaternal interface, probably as AII heterotetramer. AII has immunosuppressive activity and may be important in fetal allograft survival.