The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 54: 457 - 467 (2010)

Vol 54, Issue 2-3

Special Issue: Placenta

Immunoregulatory molecules in human placentas: potential for diverse roles in pregnancy

Review | Published: 4 September 2009

Joan S. Hunt*,1, Judith L. Pace1 and Ryan M. Gill2

1Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, The University of Kansas Medical Center and 2Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, USA


Molecules with immunological functions abound in hemochorial mammalian placentas where maternal blood and tissues are in direct contact with fetal placental cells. For the most part, investigators have focused on the possibility that these molecules are primarily in place for the purpose of preventing maternal immune mechanisms from attacking the genetically different fetal cells. Yet information collected in recent years indicates that these “immunological” mediators may serve other, non-immunological functions in placentas. In this article we discuss two families of these molecules investigated in our and other laboratories, namely the tumor necrosis factor superfamily (TNFSF) and the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) family, and present accumulating evidence for dichotomy of function during gestation.


major histocompatibility antigen, human, placenta, receptor, tumor necrosis family

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