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J Reprod Immunol. 2003 Aug;59(2):253-65.

Seminal 'priming' for protection from pre-eclampsia-a unifying hypothesis.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Adelaide University, SA 5005 Adelaide, Australia.


Conventional belief holds that an immune response to ejaculate antigens should interfere with fertilisation and establishment of pregnancy. However, emerging evidence now supports the opposing view-that insemination acts to activate maternal immune mechanisms exerting a positive effect on reproductive events. In a response well documented in rodents, semen triggers an influx of antigen-presenting cells into the female reproductive tract which process and present paternal ejaculate antigens to elicit activation of lymphocytes in the adaptive immune compartment. Transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta), a cytokine present in abundance in seminal plasma, initiates this inflammatory response by stimulating the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in uterine tissues. Lymphocyte activation is evident in lymph nodes draining the uterus and leads to hypo-responsiveness in T-cells reactive with paternal alloantigens. TGFbeta has potent immune-deviating effects and is likely to be the key agent in skewing the immune response against a Type-1 bias. Prior exposure to semen in the context of TGFbeta can be shown to be associated with enhanced fetal-placental development late in gestation. In this paper, we review the experimental basis for these claims and propose the hypothesis that, in women, the partner-specific protective effect of insemination in pre-eclampsia might be explained by induction of immunological hypo-responsiveness conferring tolerance to histocompatibility antigens present in the ejaculate and shared by the conceptus.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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