In utero arsenic exposure and fetal immune repertoire in a US pregnancy cohort

Clin Immunol. 2014 Dec;155(2):188-97. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2014.09.004. Epub 2014 Sep 16.


Arsenic has wide-ranging effects on human health and there is evidence that it alters the immune response by influencing CD4+/CD8+ T cell ratios, IL-2 cytokine levels, and the expression of immune-response genes. We investigated the impact of in utero environmental arsenic exposure on immune development and function in newborns participating in a pregnancy cohort in New Hampshire, U.S., where arsenic levels have exceeded the current EPA maximum contaminant level of 10 μg/L. Our results showed that maternal urinary arsenic concentrations were inversely related to absolute total CD45RA+ CD4+ cord blood CD69+ T cell counts (N=116, p=0.04) and positively associated with CD45RA+ CD69- CD294+ cell counts (p=0.01). In placental samples (N=70), higher in utero urinary arsenic concentrations were positively associated with the expression of IL1β (p=0.03). These data provide evidence that relatively low-level arsenic exposure in utero may alter the fetal immune system and lead to immune dysregulation.

Keywords: AQP9; Arsenic; IL1β; Immune function; In utero; T cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arsenic / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / cytology
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interleukin-1beta / genetics
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • New Hampshire
  • Phenotype
  • Placenta / immunology
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / immunology*
  • Risk Factors
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism


  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Arsenic