Maternal recognition of pregnancy

Biol Reprod. 1996 Feb;54(2):294-302. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod54.2.294.


Maternal recognition of pregnancy reflects the various ways in which the mother responds to the presence of a conceptus within her reproductive tract. A part of the biochemical information she senses may be irrelevant to pregnancy outcome, but some reflects the attempts by the conceptus to gain some measure of control over corpus luteum function, uterine blood supply, the mother's immune system, and other aspects of maternal physiology. Most probably as a result of ongoing genetic conflict between the mother and the conceptus, a bewildering range of placental structures and trophoblast signaling mechanisms are encountered in eutherian mammals despite the fact that the uterus and conceptus share a common interest, which is the successful outcome of the pregnancy. Here we review some of the ways that such mammals maintain luteal function in early pregnancy and briefly discuss the related topics of embryonic loss and maternal monitoring of conceptus fitness. We next address the view that the conceptus is an intruder, recognized as foreign by the mother, that likely survives by using strategies analogous to those employed by successful parasites. In this context, we describe the pregnancy-associated glycoproteins, multiple isoforms of which are released at the trophoblast-endometrial interface during pregnancy of ungulate species. These molecules, which are structurally related to pepsin, are proposed to bind and sequester antigenic peptides, thereby serving an immunoprotective role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Luteum / physiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Death
  • Glycoproteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Placenta / anatomy & histology
  • Placenta / physiology
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Pregnancy Proteins / physiology


  • Glycoproteins
  • Pregnancy Proteins