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J Immunol. 2004 Oct 1;173(7):4286-96.

Divergent trophoblast responses to bacterial products mediated by TLRs.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Intrauterine infections have been associated with pregnancy complications that are also linked with increased trophoblast apoptosis. TLRs are key components of the innate immune system which recognize conserved sequences on the surface of pathogens and trigger effector cell functions. We hypothesize that intrauterine infections may cause the excessive trophoblast cell apoptosis observed in abnormal pregnancies and that TLR may provide a mechanism of pathogenesis. In this study we describe the expression and function of TLR-2 and TLR-4 in first trimester trophoblast cells. Although ligation of TLR4 induced cytokine production by trophoblast cells, TLR-2 activation induced apoptosis. TLR-2 mediated apoptosis was dependent upon the Fas-associated death domain, the inactivation of the X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis, and the activation of caspases 8, 9, and 3. These results suggest that certain intrauterine infections may directly induce trophoblast cell death through TLR-2. Our findings provide a novel mechanism of pathogenesis for certain pregnancy complications in which there is engagement of the innate immune system.

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