Maternal Immune Responses to Trophoblast: The Contribution of the Horse to Pregnancy Immunology


Douglas Antczak, Baker Institute for Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Citation Noronha LE, Antczak DF. Maternal immune responses to trophoblast: the contribution of the horse to pregnancy immunology. Am J Reprod Immunol 2010

The horse has proven to be a distinctively informative species in the study of pregnancy immunology for several reasons. First, unique aspects of the anatomy and physiology of the equine conceptus facilitate approaches that are not possible in other model organisms, such as non-surgical recovery of early stage embryos and conceptuses and isolation of pure trophoblast cell populations. Second, pregnant mares make strong cytotoxic antibody responses to paternal major histocompatibility complex class I antigens expressed by the chorionic girdle cells, permitting detailed evaluation of the antigenicity of these invasive trophoblasts and how they affect the maternal immune system. Third, there is abundant evidence for local maternal cellular immune responses to the invading trophoblasts in the pregnant mare. The survival of the equine fetus in the face of strong maternal immune responses highlights the complex immunoregulatory mechanisms that result in materno–fetal tolerance. Finally, the parallels between human and horse trophoblast cell types, their gene expression, and function make the study of equine pregnancy highly relevant to human health. Here, we review the most pertinent aspects of equine reproductive immunology and how studies of the pregnant mare have contributed to our understanding of maternal acceptance of the allogeneic fetus.