Densities, distribution and phenotypic expression of T cells in human fetal skin

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T cells are present in normal adult human skin, but their occurrence in fetal skin is unknown. T cell and Langerhans cell (LC) populations were studied using single or double immunohistochemical staining on cryostat-section. Skin samples taken from different body regions of 17 fetuses ranging from 18 to 30 weeks estimated gestational-age (w-EGA), were examined. In all specimens but one, we did not find any epidermal T cell. In contrast, dermal CD3+ T cells occurred at all w-EGA. The density of these cells increased with increasing age. Double staining showed that CD3+ T cells were predominantly CD4+/CD45RA+. On the other hand, LC, as assessed by CD1a expression, was evenly distributed within the interfollicular epidermis and papillary dermis at all gestational ages. Analysis of T cell and LC density in different body regions did not show significant topographic differences. We suggest that lack of epidermal T cells, although the LC network was fully represented, might reflect the scarce opportunity of fetal LC to contact foreign antigens in utero.

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