PROBLEM: Fas and Fas-ligand (FasL) are thought to provide a strategy for reducing graft rejection in immunologically ‘privileged’ tissues by controlling injurious lymphocyte reactions. As the uteroplacental unit is often defined as an immune-privileged site, we investigated the expression of Fas and FasL in this tissue in the first trimester of pregnancy.
METHOD OF STUDY: Western blotting, immunohistochemistry, and double immunofluorescence were used for this examination.
RESULTS: Western blotting with purified first-trimester trophoblast cells revealed one specific band for FasL. The presence of FasL on different trophoblast populations could be confirmed by immunohistochemistry and double immunofluorescence. In the villous part of the placenta, FasL is mostly located on cytotrophoblast cells with no access to maternal blood flow, whereas in trophoblast-invaded uterine tissue, interstitial trophoblast cells, which are in close contact with maternal leukocytes, revealed a strong signal for FasL, but no staining for Fas on these cells. However, Fas was found on CD45+ maternal leukocytes.
CONCLUSION: Based on our experimental findings, we speculate that the abundant presence of FasL on trophoblast cells within the maternal decidua may play an important role in the maintenance of immune privilege in the pregnant uterus by endowing fetal trophoblast cells with a defense mechanism against activated maternal leukocytes, whereas in the villous part of the placenta, the Fas/FasL system seems to be involved in the regulation of placental growth.