Background: Pregnancy is associated with changes in the immune system. Although previous studies have focussed mainly on adaptive immunity, there are indications that components of innate immunity, such as mannose-binding lectin (MBL), are associated with pregnancy outcome. Although this would suggest that pregnancy also involves adaptations in innate immunity, there are few studies in this area. Therefore, we aimed to determine whether MBL concentrations and the following steps in complement pathway activation are influenced by pregnancy.
Methods: MBL and Ficolin-2 concentrations, MBL-MBL-associated serine protease (MASP) complex activity, MBL pathway activity and classical complement pathway activity were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in sera from pregnant women (n=32) during each trimester and post-partum. MBL genotyping was performed by PCR.
Results: During pregnancy, MBL concentrations increased to 140% [interquartile range (IQR) 116-181%, P < 0.0001]. This increase was already present at 12 weeks of pregnancy and was most pronounced in the high-production AA-genotype. Directly Post-partum MBL concentrations dropped to 57% of baseline (IQR 44-66%, P < 0.0001). Variations in MBL levels were reflected by similar changes in the following steps of complement activation, r > 0.93 (P < 0.01). Ficolin-2 levels and classical complement pathway activity were not similarly influenced by pregnancy.
Conclusions: Pregnancy and the post-partum period profoundly influence MBL serum concentration and MBL complement pathway activity.