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J Immunol. 1992 Nov 1;149(9):2872-8.

Characterization of gamma delta T lymphocytes at the maternal-fetal interface.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver.


A specific subset of gamma delta T lymphocytes bearing a V gamma 6V delta 1-encoded TCR is known to populate the normal nonpregnant murine uterine and vaginal epithelium. However, gamma delta T lymphocytes residing at the maternal-fetal interface during pregnancy have not yet been investigated. Using mAb and cytofluorographic analysis, we analyzed gamma delta TCR-bearing lymphocytes obtained from placental/decidual tissues of allogeneic (C57B1/10 X BALB/c and BALB/c X C57B1/10) pregnancies. Gestations were analyzed at several time points during the second half of pregnancy, with lymphocytes from both maternal spleen and nonpregnant C57B1/10 uteri analyzed as controls. We found that all gamma delta T lymphocytes at the maternal-fetal interface are maternally derived. Relative to the total T lymphocyte population, the percentage of gamma delta TCR-bearing T lymphocytes at the maternal-fetal interface is enriched three- to four-fold compared with maternal spleen, and twofold compared with nonpregnant uteri. Although one-third of gamma delta T lymphocytes from pregnant animals express a cell-surface marker associated with activation (IL-2R), gamma delta cells from uteri of nonpregnant mice fail to express IL-2R. In terms of absolute numbers, we estimate that reproductive-tract gamma delta T cells are increased nearly 100-fold in pregnant animals compared with nonpregnant animals. To characterize the TCR-gamma delta repertoire in the placenta/decidua, we generated 21 TCR-gamma delta-bearing hybridomas from lymphocytes in this tissue. Analysis of these hybridomas revealed at least six distinct gamma delta receptor types expressed at the maternal-fetal interface, with V gamma 6V delta 1 encoded TCR representing the predominant population. As specific resident constituents of the reproductive tract, gamma delta T lymphocytes may be involved in regulating a variety of physiologic and pathophysiologic events in reproductive biology.

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