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The presence of maternal DNA or even maternal cells within the offspring (microchimerism) has been reported for many fetal tissues, including the liver, heart, and spleen. Microchimerism is believed to be involved in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases; however, the cellular origin of this phenomenon remains unknown. Here, we determined whether differentiated T lymphocytes could transmigrate through the immunosuppressive environment of the placenta to reach the fetus. In vitro-differentiated effector/memory Th1 and Th17 cells from OVA₃₂₃₋₃₃₉-specific TCR(tg) T cells of OT-II mice were adoptively transferred (i.v.) into the tail veins of pregnant Ly5.1 mice at d15 and d19 of gestation. Mice were then sacrificed 40 h after adoptive cell transfer. Using radioactive labeling of T cells with sodium chromate [Cr⁵¹] prior to adoptive transfer, we observed that homing of pro-inflammatory Th cells was equally efficient in both pregnant and non-pregnant mice. Transmigration of Th1- and Th17-like cells through the highly immunosuppressive environment of the placenta into the fetus was significantly enhanced in experimental mice compared to control mice (P < 0.0001). In addition, a substantial amount of effector Th cells accumulated in the placenta. Finally, we found that treatment with Pertussis Toxin resulted in a 3-fold increase in the transmigration of effector Th17 cells into the fetus (P < 0.0001). When pro-inflammatory Th1-or Th17-like cells were injected into syngeneic mothers, almost all of the fetuses analyzed exhibited radioactivity, suggesting that transmigration of effector T cells occurs frequently. Our results suggest the possibility of novel roles for these maternal effector cells in the pathogenesis or reduction of disease. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


J Wienecke, K Hebel, K J Hegel, M Pierau, T Brune, D Reinhold, A Pethe, M C Brunner-Weinzierl. Pro-inflammatory effector Th cells transmigrate through anti-inflammatory environments into the murine fetus. Placenta. 2012 Jan;33(1):39-46

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PMID: 22093381

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