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      Endocrine Factors Modulating Immune Responses in Pregnancy

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          How the semi-allogeneic fetus is tolerated by the maternal immune system remains a fascinating phenomenon. Despite extensive research activity in this field, the mechanisms underlying fetal tolerance are still not well understood. However, there are growing evidences that immune–immune interactions as well as immune–endocrine interactions build up a complex network of immune regulation that ensures fetal survival within the maternal uterus. In the present review, we aim to summarize emerging research data from our and other laboratories on immune modulating properties of pregnancy hormones with a special focus on progesterone, estradiol, and human chorionic gonadotropin. These pregnancy hormones are critically involved in the successful establishment, maintenance, and termination of pregnancy. They suppress detrimental maternal alloresponses while promoting tolerance pathways. This includes the reduction of the antigen-presenting capacity of dendritic cells (DCs), monocytes, and macrophages as well as the blockage of natural killer cells, T and B cells. Pregnancy hormones also support the proliferation of pregnancy supporting uterine killer cells, retain tolerogenic DCs, and efficiently induce regulatory T (Treg) cells. Furthermore, they are involved in the recruitment of mast cells and Treg cells into the fetal–maternal interface contributing to a local accumulation of pregnancy-protective cells. These findings highlight the importance of endocrine factors for the tolerance induction during pregnancy and encourage further research in the field.

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          Pregnancy and pregnancy-associated hormones alter immune responses and disease pathogenesis.

          During pregnancy, it is evolutionarily advantageous for inflammatory immune responses that might lead to fetal rejection to be reduced and anti-inflammatory responses that promote transfer of maternal antibodies to the fetus to be increased. Hormones modulate the immunological shift that occurs during pregnancy. Estrogens, including estradiol and estriol, progesterone, and glucocorticoids increase over the course of pregnancy and affect transcriptional signaling of inflammatory immune responses at the maternal-fetal interface and systemically. During pregnancy, the reduced activity of natural killer cells, inflammatory macrophages, and helper T cell type 1 (Th1) cells and production of inflammatory cytokines, combined with the higher activity of regulatory T cells and production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, affects disease pathogenesis. The severity of diseases caused by inflammatory responses (e.g., multiple sclerosis) is reduced and the severity of diseases that are mitigated by inflammatory responses (e.g., influenza and malaria) is increased during pregnancy. For some infectious diseases, elevated inflammatory responses that are necessary to control and clear a pathogen have a negative consequence on the outcome of pregnancy. The bidirectional interactions between hormones and the immune system contribute to both the outcome of pregnancy and female susceptibility to disease. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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            Abnormal T-cell reactivity against paternal antigens in spontaneous abortion: adoptive transfer of pregnancy-induced CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells prevents fetal rejection in a murine abortion model.

            Mammalian pregnancy is thought to be a state of immunological tolerance. The mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are still poorly understood. Here, we determined whether an inappropriate function of T regulatory (Treg) cells is involved in the pathogenesis of spontaneous abortion. We evaluated spleen and decidual lymphocytes from CBA/J mice undergoing immunological abortion (DBA/2J-mated) or having normal pregnancy (BALB/c-mated) on day 14 of gestation for ex vivo cytokine production after PMA or paternal antigen (alloantigen) stimulation. Treg activity was characterized by quantifying CD4(+)CD25(+) cells, foxp3 expression, and interleukin-10 secretion. Decidual lymphocytes from abortion CBA/J mice contained a significantly higher frequency of interferon-gamma-producing T cells specific for paternal antigens compared to those from normal pregnancy (7.8% versus 2.7%, P < 0.05). Compared to virgin CBA/J females, normal pregnant mice showed strongly elevated numbers of CD4(+)CD25(+) and interleukin-10(+) Treg cells in the thymus whereas significantly lower frequencies of Treg cells were observed in abortion mice. Very interestingly, CD4(+)CD25(+) Treg cells from normal pregnant and nonpregnant CBA/J mice could inhibit both proliferation and interferon-gamma secretion of lymphocytes from abortion mice in vitro whereas in vivo prevention of fetal rejection could only be achieved after adoptive transfer of Treg cells from normal pregnant mice. Our data suggest that pregnancy-induced Treg cells play a vital role in maternal tolerance to the allogeneic fetus.
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              Integration of the extranuclear and nuclear actions of estrogen.

               Carol Levin (2005)
              Estrogen receptors (ERs) are localized to many sites within the cell, potentially contributing to overall estrogen action. In the nucleus, estrogen mainly modulates gene transcription, and the resulting protein products determine the cell biological actions of the sex steroid. In addition, a small pool of ERs localize to the plasma membrane and signal mainly though coupling, directly or indirectly, to G proteins. In response to steroid, signal transduction modulates both nontranscriptional and transcriptional events and impacts both the rapid and more prolonged actions of estrogen. Cross-talk from membrane-localized ERs to nuclear ERs can be mediated through growth factor receptor tyrosine kinases, such as epidermal growth factor receptor and IGF-I receptor. Growth factor receptors enact signal transduction to kinases such as ERK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase that phosphorylate and activate nuclear ERs, and this can also occur in the absence of sex steroid. A complex relationship between the membrane and nuclear effects of estrogen also involves membrane-initiated phosphorylation of coactivators, recruiting these proteins to the nuclear transcriptosome. Finally, large pools of cytoplasmic ERs exist, and some are localized to mitochondria. The integration of sex steroid effects at distinct cellular locations of its receptor leads to important cellular physiological outcomes and are manifest in both reproductive and nonreproductive organs.

                Author and article information

                URI : http://frontiersin.org/people/u/97312
                URI : http://frontiersin.org/people/u/49865
                Front Immunol
                Front Immunol
                Front. Immunol.
                Frontiers in Immunology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                08 May 2014
                : 5
                1Department of Experimental Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical Faculty, Otto-von-Guericke University , Magdeburg, Germany
                2University Women’s Clinic, Otto-von-Guericke University , Magdeburg, Germany
                Author notes

                Edited by: Sinuhe Hahn, University Clinics Basel, Switzerland

                Reviewed by: Fulvio D’Acquisto, Queen Mary University of London, UK; Stavros Giaglis, University of Basel, Switzerland; Ralph Kay Heinrich Nanan, The University of Sydney, Australia

                *Correspondence: Anne Schumacher, Department of Experimental Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical Faculty, Otto-von-Guericke University, Gerhart-Hauptmann Straße 35, Magdeburg 39108, Germany e-mail: anne.schumacher@ 123456med.ovgu.de

                This article was submitted to Inflammation, a section of the journal Frontiers in Immunology.

                Copyright © 2014 Schumacher, Costa and Zenclussen.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 184, Pages: 12, Words: 11150
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