The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 58: 189 - 198 (2014)

Vol 58, Issue 2-3-4

Special Issue: Embryo Implantation

T cell behavior at the maternal-fetal interface

Published: 10 July 2014

Patrice Nancy1 and Adrian Erlebacher*,1,2

1Department of Pathology and 2NYU Cancer Institute, NYU School of Medicine, New York, USA


Understanding the function of T cells at the maternal-fetal interface remains one of the most difficult problems in reproductive immunology. A great deal of work over the last two decades has led to the view that the T cells that populate the decidua have important roles in both normal and pathological pregnancies, but the exact nature of these roles has remained unclear. Indeed, the old assumption that decidual T cells are uniformly threatening to fetal survival because the placenta is fundamentally an ‘allograft’ has given way to the idea that different T cell subsets contribute in different ways to pregnancy success or failure. Accordingly, some T cells are thought to protect the placenta from immune rejection and facilitate embryo implantation, while others are thought to contribute to pregnancy pathologies such as preeclampsia and spontaneous abortion. Here, we review the current state of information on the behavior of decidual T cells with a focus on both mouse and human studies, and with an emphasis on the many unresolved areas within this overall emerging framework.


Fetomaternal tolerance, pregnancy, decidua, placenta, antigen presentation

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