The placenta, transfer of immunoglobulins, and safety assessment of biopharmaceuticals in pregnancy

Crit Rev Toxicol. 2012 Mar;42(3):185-210. doi: 10.3109/10408444.2011.653487.


Anatomical and developmental differences of the parental-offspring interface among experimental animals and humans throughout gestation are reviewed focusing on biodistribution of immunoglobulins (IgG). The formation of the extraembryonic membranes, uteroplacental circulation, and characteristics of the placenta (gross shape, modes of implantation, surface modifications that increase surface area, and extent of embryonic invasion into maternal tissue) are reviewed. Placental physiology and function are covered with attention to transfer of xenobiotics. Placental transfer of immunoglobulins in the human, non-human primate (NHP), rodent, and rabbit is discussed and the transfer of human fragment crystallizable (Fc)-containing biopharmaceuticals and potential impact on developmental toxicity risk assessment are specifically addressed. Safety assessment is often limited to the NHP as the only pharmacologically relevant model, despite poor statistical power as employed in current experimental designs. Although data are limited, the gestational timing of placental IgG transfer in rabbits appears to be more consistent with that of humans (i.e. occurring at the very end and after completion of organogenesis) than that of rodents, making the rabbit a reasonable choice assuming it is pharmacologically relevant. The rodent is not considered the most appropriate model for human placental transfer of Fc-containing biopharmaceuticals because it is currently believed to overestimate exposure during organogenesis. Nevertheless, the rodent may provide a conservative approach for hazard identification. It is clear that additional experimentation is needed to further clarify the timing of prenatal transfer of Fc-containing biopharmaceuticals in various species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / metabolism*
  • Models, Animal
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Placental Circulation
  • Pregnancy
  • Rabbits
  • Receptors, Fc / metabolism
  • Rodentia
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism


  • Immunoglobulins
  • Receptors, Fc
  • Xenobiotics