An interspecies comparison of placental antibody transfer: new insights into developmental toxicity testing of monoclonal antibodies

Birth Defects Res B Dev Reprod Toxicol. 2009 Aug;86(4):328-44. doi: 10.1002/bdrb.20201.


There are profound differences in maternofetal transfer of immunoglobulins between species with extensive gestational transfer of maternal immunoglobulins in primates (including humans) via the chorioallantoic placenta as well as in rabbits and guinea pigs via the inverted yolk sac splanchnopleure. In contrast, other neonatal rodents (rats and mice) receive passive immunity predominantly postnatally. This transfer is mediated principally via FcRn receptors. Therapeutic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are most commonly of the IgG1 subclass, which is transported most efficiently to the fetus. In all animal species used for testing developmental toxicity, fetal exposure to IgG is very low during organogenesis, but this increases during the latter half of gestation such that the neonate is born with an IgG1 concentration similar to the mother (but not rats and mice). Review of mAb developmental toxicity studies of licensed products reveals Cynomolgus monkey as the species used in the majority of the cases (10 out of 15). Pregnancy outcome data from women gestationally exposed to mAb is limited. In general, the findings are consistent with the expected low exposure during organogenesis. Guinea-pigs and rabbits are potential candidates as "alternatives" to the use of nonhuman primates as the maternofetal transfer in the last part of gestation is at a level similar in humans. Based on the pattern of placental transfer of IgG in humans, study designs that allow detection of both the indirect effects in early gestation plus the effects of direct fetal exposure in mid and late gestation are recommended for developmental toxicity of mAbs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology*
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / etiology
  • Adalimumab
  • Adult
  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacokinetics
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / toxicity*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired*
  • Immunoglobulin G / metabolism
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Primates
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rituximab
  • Species Specificity
  • Trastuzumab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Rituximab
  • Adalimumab
  • Trastuzumab