Study question: Does the genotype of the surrogate mother modulate the body composition and immunity of her offspring?
Summary answer: C57BL/6J (B6) progenies carried by immunodeficient NOD SCID (NS) mothers had increased adaptive but decreased innate, immune responsiveness in comparison with the same genotype offspring carried by immunocompetent mothers, B6 and BALB/c (C); the B6 progenies carried by the same genotype mothers also showed higher body fat than the others.
What is known already: Differences in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes between mother and foetus is considered as an important factor in prenatal embryo development, whereas the impact of such dissimilarity on the phenotype of the mature progeny is unclear.
Study design, size, duration: Transplantation of two-cell mouse embryos into recipient females of the different MHC (H2) genotypes was used as an approach to simulate three variants of the immunogenic mother-foetus interaction: (i) bidirectional immunogenic dialogue between B6 (H2b haplotype) embryos and C (H2d haplotype) surrogate mother; (ii) one-way immunogenic interaction between B6 embryos and immunodeficient NS (H2g7 haplotype) surrogate mother and (iii) reduced immunogenetic dialogue between embryos and surrogate mother of the same H2b haplotype resulting in only a maternal response to HY antigens of male foetuses. Delivered by Caesarean section, pups were fostered by lactating B6 females and weighed after weaning (n = 171). Body mass and composition and innate and adaptive immunity were assessed in selected progeny groups at 9-11 weeks of age.
Participants/materials, setting, methods: The study was performed on the specific pathogen-free mouse, inbred strains C57BL/6J, NOD SCID and BALB/c. Plasma progesterone in pregnant females was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Body composition was determined by magnetic resonance spectroscopy using a low-field NMR spectrometer (EchoMRI, USA). To assess peritoneal macrophage responses (innate immunity) to anthrax, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and interleukin-1 (IL-1β) were measured in a culture medium 24 h after the addition of both anthrax-lethal factor and anthrax-protective antigen. To assess adaptive immunity, 9-10 males in experimental groups were infected with Helicobacter hepaticus. Faeces collected 2 and 4 weeks after infection was used for quantitative assessment of the H. hepaticus DNA by real-time polymerase chain reaction. IgA, interferon (IFN-γ), tumour necrosis factor (TNFα), interleukin-17 (IL-17) and interleukin-10 (IL-10) in colon tissue and IgG in serum were determined in samples collected 4 weeks after gavage with H. hepaticus using ELISA. For statistical analyses, ANCOVA, post hoc least significant difference (LSD) test, Student's t-test, Spearman rank correlations and χ2 test were performed. P-value <0.05 was considered as a statistically significant difference.
Main results and the role of chance: ANCOVA with litter size and age as covariates revealed significant effects of the surrogate mother genotype on body mass and percent of fat in their adult progeny (F2149 = 15.60, P < 0.001 and F2149 = 5.02, P = 0.007, respectively). Adult B6 mice carried by B6 surrogate mothers were characterized by a higher percentage of body fat in comparison with offspring that were carried by NS and C females. In comparison with the male offspring carried by the B6 and C mothers, male B6 progenies carried by immunodeficient NS mothers had a higher humoral immune response (serum IgG) against oral infection with H. hepaticus, but lower in vitro macrophage IL-1β reaction to the anthrax. Four weeks after the infection of offspring, concentrations of serum IgG and colon IL-10 correlated positively with maternal progesterone on Day 4 after embryo transfer and negatively with DNA of H. hepaticus. One-way ANOVA confirmed a statistically significant impact of surrogate mother genotype on adaptive (IgG) and innate (IL-1β) immunity (F2.26 = 26.39, P < 0.001 and F2.27 = 5.89, P = 0.008, respectively).
Large scale data: N/A.
Limitations, reasons for caution: The main limitation of our study is the number of combinations of mother and foetus interactions, in particular, transfer of only one embryo genotype was used. Also, it is a descriptive study, which requires further analysis of the epigenetic mechanisms of the observed phenotypic effects of surrogate mother genotype.
Wider implications of the findings: Our experimental data demonstrate that the transfer of inbred embryos to surrogate mothers of the different genotypes is a prospective experimental model for the study of epigenetic effects of the immunogenetic interactions between mother and foetus. The experimental approach tested in our study will be in demand for the development of criteria for choosing surrogate mothers. In particular, immunocompetence of the surrogate mother along with genetic distance of her MHC alleles to the transferred embryos have a significant impact on offspring development.
Study funding/competing interest(s): This work was supported by the Russian FPI (6/099/2017), budget projects (0324-2016-0002 and 0324-2018-0016) and implemented using the equipment of the Centre for Genetic Resources of Laboratory Animals at ICG SB RAS, supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia (Unique project identifier RFMEFI62117X0015). The authors report no conflicts of interest.