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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33419. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033419. Epub 2012 Mar 19.

Neonatal plasma polarizes TLR4-mediated cytokine responses towards low IL-12p70 and high IL-10 production via distinct factors.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Human neonates are highly susceptible to infection, which may be due in part to impaired innate immune function. Neonatal Toll-like receptor (TLR) responses are biased against the generation of pro-inflammatory/Th1-polarizing cytokines, yet the underlying mechanisms are incompletely defined. Here, we demonstrate that neonatal plasma polarizes TLR4-mediated cytokine production. When exposed to cord blood plasma, mononuclear cells (MCs) produced significantly lower TLR4-mediated IL-12p70 and higher IL-10 compared to MC exposed to adult plasma. Suppression by neonatal plasma of TLR4-mediated IL-12p70 production, but not induction of TLR4-mediated IL-10 production, was maintained up to the age of 1 month. Cord blood plasma conferred a similar pattern of MC cytokine responses to TLR3 and TLR8 agonists, demonstrating activity towards both MyD88-dependent and MyD88-independent agonists. The factor causing increased TLR4-mediated IL-10 production by cord blood plasma was heat-labile, lost after protein depletion and independent of lipoprotein binding protein (LBP) or soluble CD14 (sCD14). The factor causing inhibition of TLR4-mediated IL-12p70 production by cord blood plasma was resistant to heat inactivation or protein depletion and was independent of IL-10, vitamin D and prostaglandin E2. In conclusion, human neonatal plasma contains at least two distinct factors that suppress TLR4-mediated IL-12p70 production or induce IL-10 or production. Further identification of these factors will provide insight into the ontogeny of innate immune development and might identify novel targets for the prevention and treatment of neonatal infection.

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