Problem: One immunoregulatory pathway receiving little attention is placental exosome release. In normal pregnancy, as factors linked with early immunomodulation decline, placental exosomes become critical in modulating T-cell activation, suppressing effector T cells by enhancing lymphocyte apoptosis and CD3-zeta loss.
Method of study: Placental exosomes were specifically isolated from the maternal peripheral circulation by a chromatographic/immunosorbent procedure. Exosomal suppression of T-cell signaling molecules on unfractionated T cells and T subsets was analyzed by Western immunoblot. The role of Fas ligand (FasL) was defined by use of Fas-blocking antibody.
Results: While exosomes of lymphoid origin could be demonstrated in all women, placenta-derived exosomes were only identified in pregnant patients. Placental exosomes suppressed T-cell expression of CD3-zeta and JAK3, while inducing SOCS-2. This downregulation of CD3-zeta was partially reversed by pre-incubating T cells with ZB4 antibody. Using T subsets, the level of CD3-zeta on CD8+ cells was inhibited 1.43-fold more than in CD4+ cells. On CD4+ CD25+ cells, CD3-zeta was not significantly inhibited.
Conclusion: Placental exosomes suppressed T-cell signaling components; however, while exosomal FasL is an important contributor, it does not appear to be the sole mediator. The additional expression of PD-L1 may explain immunoregulatory consequences of exosomes with low or absent FasL.