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J Reprod Immunol. 2004 Apr;61(2):79-86.

Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) expression in invasive extravillous trophoblast supports role of the enzyme for materno-fetal tolerance.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Wuerzburg, Josef-Schneider-Str. 4, D-97080 Wuerzburg, Germany.


It is still not understood how the fetus escapes from being attacked by the maternal immune system. Recent reports based on mouse and in vitro models have suggested that the enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) is important for materno-fetal tolerance. IDO activity in the human placenta is known to be high and might lead to inhibition of T-cell proliferation, thus preventing fetal tissue from rejection by the maternal immune system. In an attempt to elucidate the precise location of IDO at the feto-maternal junctional zone, we investigated human placental and decidual tissue of first and third trimester of pregnancy using an immunohistochemical approach. In placental tissues, only syncytiotrophoblast and endothelial cells showed moderate expression of IDO. This pattern was observed regardless of whether first or third trimester tissue was investigated. In early and term decidua, cells with the typical morphology of invasive extravillous trophoblast (EVT) were strongly positive for IDO. Blocking immunohistochemical experiments with cytokeratin and IDO antibodies identified invasive EVT as the location of predominant IDO expression. Since EVT are the fetal cells with the closest contact to the maternal immune system, our results suggest that it is EVT which protects the fetus from rejection by downregulating local maternal T-cell responses.

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