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Cells Tissues Organs. 2001;168(1-2):113-21.

The species recognition system: a new corollary for the human fetoembryonic defense system hypothesis.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Sciences, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Va 23501-1980, USA.


We have previously suggested that the human fetus is protected during human development by a system of both soluble and cell surface associated glycoconjugates that utilize their carbohydrate sequences as functional groups to enable them to evoke tolerance. The proposed model has been referred to as the human fetoembryonic defense system hypothesis (hu-FEDS). In this paradigm, it has previously been proposed that similar oligosaccharides are used to mediate crucial recognition events required during both human sperm-egg binding and immune-inflammatory cell interactions. This vertical integration suggested to us that the sperm-egg binding itself is related to universal recognition events that occur between immune and inflammatory cells, except that in this case recognition of 'species' rather than recognition of 'self' is being manifested. In this paper, we have designated this component of hu-FEDS as the species recognition system (SRS). We propose that the SRS is an integral component of the hu-FEDS used to enable sperm-egg recognition and protection of the gametes from potential immune responses. Recent structural data indicates that the glycan sequences implicated in mediating murine gamete recognition are also expressed on CD45 in activated murine T lymphocytes and cytotoxic T lymphocytes. This overlap supports our contention that there is an overlap between the immune and gamete recognition systems. Therefore the hu-FEDS paradigm may be a subset of a larger model that also applies to other placental mammals. We therefore propose that the hu-FEDS model for protection should in the future be referred to as the eutherian fetoembryonic defense system hypothesis (eu-FEDS) to account for this extension. The possibility exists that the SRS component of eu-FEDS could predate eutherians and extend to all sexually reproducing organisms. Future investigation of the interactions between the immune and gamete recognition system will be required to determine the degree of overlap.

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