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Immunology. 2006 Sep;119(1):18-26. Epub 2006 Jun 8.

Pregnancy, but not the allergic status, influences spontaneous and induced interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), IL-6, IL-10 and IL-12 responses.

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Department of Immunology, Wenner-Gren Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.


In this study, we investigated how pregnancy influences cytokine production in response to stimulation of the innate and the adaptive immune system, respectively. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from allergic (n = 44) and non-allergic (n = 36) women were collected at three time-points: during the third trimester, at delivery and at a non-pregnant state 2 years after delivery. The production of interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), IL-6, IL-10 and IL-12 was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISPOT). The spontaneous cytokine production, and the response following stimulation with agents that primarily activate the adaptive part of the immune system [phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), allergen extracts from cat and birch], or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) that activate innate immunity was measured in vitro. There was a significantly higher spontaneous in vitro production of IL-1beta, IL-6 and IL-10 by PBMCs during pregnancy than 2 years after pregnancy, and this was not affected by the allergic status of the women. Conversely, in PHA-stimulated cell cultures there was a lower production of IL-10 and IL-12 during pregnancy than 2 years after pregnancy. LPS-induced IL-6 levels were significantly lower in PBMCs obtained during pregnancy than at 2 years after pregnancy. In addition, we made the interesting observation that in allergic women total immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels were significantly lower 2 years after pregnancy compared to the levels during pregnancy. Taken together, our results indicate that while atopic allergy in women does not have a substantial effect on cytokine production, pregnancy has an obvious effect on the immune system in terms of cytokine production as well as on the total IgE levels.

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