Acute infection with Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) during pregnancy is associated with adverse outcomes. The mechanisms that cause this phenomenon are not clear. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are involved in maternal tolerance, and here we observed a decrease in the absolute numbers of CTLA-4(+) Tregs and PD-1(+) Tregs in spleen and at the fetal-maternal interface in T. gondii-infected mice. Our results suggest that T. gondii induces apoptosis of Tregs. Additionally, we found that the expression of CTLA-4 and PD-1 on Tregs at fetal-maternal interface were higher than on spleen cells from normal pregnant mice. Therefore, we adoptively transferred Tregs from fetal-maternal interface or from spleens of normal pregnant mice into infected pregnant mice. Pregnancy outcomes were improved when Tregs were transferred from the fetal-maternal interface but not from the spleen. The mechanism appears to be through up-regulation of the number of CTLA-4(+) Tregs and PD-1(+) Tregs and correction of the imbalance between tolerant cytokines (IL-10, TGF-β) and inflammatory cytokines (IFN-γ). Our data indicate that Tregs at fetal-maternal interface express high levels of inhibitory molecules that play a vital immuno-protective role during pregnancy.
Keywords: CD4+ Foxp3+ regulatory T cell; Toxoplasma gondii; adoptive transfer; pregnancy.
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