Deficiency in T cell responses of human fetal lymph node cells: a lack of accessory cells

Immunol Cell Biol. 1995 Aug;73(4):353-61. doi: 10.1038/icb.1995.54.


Lymph node and spleen cells of human foetuses from the 18th to the 24th week of gestation were analysed with regard to their phenotypes and their functional capacities. Fetal mesenteric lymph nodes contain high percentages of CD45RA+ T cells and few B cells and monocytes, whereas the fetal spleen is comprised of equal numbers of T and B cells as well as monocytes/macrophages. Functional analysis of lymph node T cells revealed a lack of proliferative response to PHA or CD3 specific mAb, despite induction of expression of the activation marker CD69. Proliferation of LN cells and thymocytes was observed upon addition of exogenous IL-2. An allogeneic EBV transformed tumour cell line, known to be an effective antigen presenting cell, could induce proliferation of LN cells without exogenous IL-2 and fetal spleen cells could proliferate in response to all stimuli tested without additional IL-2. Splenic non-T cells could restore the proliferation of lymph node cells as efficiently as IL-2 or the EBV transformed B cell line. Separated B cells were more effective than plastic adherent cells on a per cell basis. Naivity of the fetal immune system is therefore not only reflected by the expression of markers representative for naive lymphocytes but can also be due to the absence of potential accessory cells in the different lymphoid organs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology*
  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / analysis
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / immunology*
  • Fetal Blood / cytology
  • Fetal Blood / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunocompetence / physiology
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Lymph Nodes / cytology
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mesentery
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / cytology
  • Thymus Gland / immunology


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • CD69 antigen
  • Lectins, C-Type