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Mol Immunol. 2006 Jan;43(1-2):68-77.

The complement system in the pathophysiology of pregnancy.

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Department of Medicine, Hospital for Special Surgery, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


A fully active complement system deriving from the maternal circulation as well as from local production by various cell source is present in the placenta. The role of this system at the placental level, as in any other tissue in the body, is to protect both the fetus and the mother against infectious and other toxic agents. As fetal tissues are semi-allogeneic and alloantibodies commonly develop in the mother, the placenta is potentially subject to complement-mediated immune attack at the feto-maternal interface with the potential risk of fetal loss. Uncontrolled complement activation is prevented in successful pregnancy by the three regulatory proteins DAF, MCP and CD59 positioned on the surface of trophoblasts. The critical role played by these complement regulators is supported by the embryonic lethality observed in mice deficient in the complement regulator Crry. Excessive complement activation in the placenta places the fetus at risk for growth restriction or death. The role played by the complement system in the fetal damage induced by anti-phospholipid antibodies in a mouse model will be examined.

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