The immunological alterations required for successful pregnancy in eutherian placental mammals have remained a scientific enigma since the discovery of MHC haplotype diversity and unique immune signatures among individuals. Within the past 10 years, accumulating data suggest that immune-suppressive regulatory T cells (Tregs) confer essential protective benefits in sustaining tolerance to the semiallogeneic fetus during pregnancy, along with their more established roles in maintaining tolerance to self and "extended self" commensal Ags that averts autoimmunity. Reciprocally, many human pregnancy complications stemming from inadequacies in fetal tolerance have been associated with defects in maternal Tregs. Thus, further elucidating the immunological shifts during pregnancy not only have direct translational implications for improving perinatal health, they have enormous potential for unveiling new clues about how Tregs work in other biological contexts. In this article, epidemiological data in human pregnancy and complementary animal studies implicating a pivotal protective role for maternal Tregs are summarized.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy