Seminal Fluid and the Generation of Regulatory T Cells for Embryo Implantation

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T regulatory (Treg) cells are essential mediators of the maternal immune adaptation necessary for embryo implantation. In mice, insufficient Treg cell activity results in implantation failure, or constrains placental function and fetal growth. In women, Treg cell deficiency is linked with unexplained infertility, miscarriage, and pre-eclampsia. To devise strategies to improve Treg cell function, it is essential to define the origin of the Treg cells in gestational tissues, and the regulators that control their functional competence and recruitment. Male seminal fluid is a potent source of the Treg cell-inducing agents TGFβ and prostaglandin E, and coitus is one key factor involved in expanding the pool of inducible Treg cells that react with paternal alloantigens shared by conceptus tissues. In mice, coitus initiates a sequence of events whereby female dendritic cells cross-present seminal fluid antigens and activate T cells, which in turn circulate via the blood to be sequestered into the endometrium. Similar events may occur in the human genital tract, where seminal fluid induces immune cell changes that appear competent to prime Treg cells. Improved understanding of how seminal fluid influences Treg cells in women should ultimately assist in the development of new therapies for immune-mediated pathologies of pregnancy.

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