Prenatal exposure to parasite antigens or allergens will influence the profile and strength of postnatal immune responses, such contact may tolerize and increase susceptibility to future infections or sensitize to environmental allergens. Exposure in utero to parasite antigens will distinctly alter cellular gene expression in newborns. Gene microarrays were applied to study gene expression in umbilical cord blood cell (UCBC) from parasite-exposed (Para-POS) and non-exposed (Para-NEG) neonates. UCBC were activated with antigens of helminth (Onchocerca volvulus), amoeba (Entamoeba histolytica) or allergens of mite (Dermatophagoides farinae). When UCBC from Para-POS and Para-NEG newborns were exposed to helminth antigens or allergens consistent differences occurred in the expression of genes encoding for MHC class I and II alleles, signal transducers of activation and transcription (STATs), cytokines, chemokines, immunoglobulin heavy and light chains, and molecules associated with immune regulation (SOCS, TLR, TGF), inflammation (TNF, CCR) and apoptosis (CASP). Expression of genes associated with innate immune responses were enhanced in Para-NEG, while in Para-POS, the expression of MHC class II and STAT genes was reduced. Within functional gene networks for cellular growth, proliferation and immune responses, Para-NEG neonates presented with significantly higher expression values than Para-POS. In Para-NEG newborns, the gene cluster and pathway analyses suggested that gene expression profiles may predispose for the development of immunological, hematological and dermatological disorders upon postnatal helminth parasite infection or allergen exposure. Thus, prenatal parasite contact will sensitize without generating aberrant inflammatory immune responses, and increased pro-inflammatory but decreased regulatory gene expression profiles will be present in those neonates lacking prenatal parasite antigen encounter.
Keywords: Gene expression; Helminth and amoeba antigens; Mite allergens; Neonates; Prenatal immune sensitization; Umbilical cord blood cells.
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