Time course analysis of alpha+ beta+ T cell clones during normal pregnancy

Eur J Immunol. 1996 Apr;26(4):834-8. doi: 10.1002/eji.1830260416.


During normal pregnancy, the fetus continues to mature inside the uterus without rejection. Inherited paternal antigens could be targeted by the maternal immune system. These reactions are believed to play a role in a number of habitual abortions. However, the precise maternal mechanisms preventing fetal tissue rejection are not well understood. Maternal T cells should recognize fetal antigens, so it is conceivable that antigen-specific T cell response to fetal antigens would occur by proliferation and accumulation of certain T cell clones in the pregnant mother. To elucidate the maternal immune response to the fetus we investigated the clonality of expanded T cells in peripheral blood lymphocytes in ten normal pregnant women. We employed reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction for T cell receptor beta chain gene and subsequently analyzed the PCR product by single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis. A large number of distinctly expanded T cell clones were detected during pregnancy. These accumulations were observed as early as the ninth to tenth week post-conception and reached a maximum during the second trimester, suggesting the existence of dynamic antigen-specific T cell responses in the pregnant mother. However, after the 30th week of gestation, nearly all expanded T cell clones disappeared before parturition and the degree of clonality reached almost normal levels. Our results clearly indicate the existence of dynamic maternal T cell responses during pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Base Sequence
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Clone Cells
  • Female
  • Fetus / immunology
  • Gene Rearrangement, T-Lymphocyte
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Isoantigens / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymorphism, Single-Stranded Conformational
  • Pregnancy / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta* / genetics
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets*


  • Isoantigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta