Prenatal and early-life exposures alter expression of innate immunity genes: the PASTURE cohort study

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Aug;130(2):523-30.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.05.049.


Background: There is evidence that gene expression of innate immunity receptors is upregulated by farming-related exposures.

Objective: We sought to determine environmental and nutritional exposures associated with the gene expression of innate immunity receptors during pregnancy and the first year of a child's life.

Methods: For the Protection Against Allergy: Study in Rural Environments (PASTURE) birth cohort study, 1133 pregnant women were recruited in rural areas of Austria, Finland, France, Germany, and Switzerland. mRNA expression of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) 1 through TLR9 and CD14 was assessed in blood samples at birth (n= 938) and year 1 (n= 752). Environmental exposures, as assessed by using questionnaires and a diary kept during year 1, and polymorphisms in innate receptor genes were related to gene expression of innate immunity receptors by using ANOVA and multivariate regression analysis.

Results: Gene expression of innate immunity receptors in cord blood was overall higher in neonates of farmers (P for multifactorial multivariate ANOVA= .041), significantly so for TLR7 (adjusted geometric means ratio [aGMR], 1.15; 95% CI, 1.02-1.30) and TLR8 (aGMR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.04-1.26). Unboiled farm milk consumption during the first year of life showed the strongest association with mRNA expression at year 1, taking the diversity of other foods introduced during that period into account: TLR4 (aGMR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.03-1.45), TLR5 (aGMR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.01-1.41), and TLR6 (aGMR, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.04-1.38). A previously described modification of the association between farm milk consumption and CD14 gene expression by the single nucleotide polymorphism CD14/C-1721T was not found.

Conclusion: Farming-related exposures, such as raw farm milk consumption, that were previously reported to decrease the risk for allergic outcomes were associated with a change in gene expression of innate immunity receptors in early life.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Fetal Blood / immunology
  • Gene Expression / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / genetics*
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / immunology
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / prevention & control
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Infant
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / genetics*
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / immunology
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Milk / immunology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / immunology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / genetics*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / immunology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / prevention & control
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / immunology
  • Rural Population
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Toll-Like Receptors / genetics*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology


  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Toll-Like Receptors