Immune cells and molecules in pregnancy: friends or foes to the fetus?

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Abstract

Considering allograft rejection as a basic feature of the immune system, the mammalian pregnancy is an immunological paradox where the semi-allogeneic fetus is not rejected. How are the demands of pregnancy solved in the context of maternal immunity? Medawar's original proposal of maternal immune inertness during pregnancy should be revised to active materno-placental tolerance. Multiple mechanisms are involved in peripheral and local tolerance induction that prevents fetal rejection while maintaining competent immune surveillance and protection. The goal of this review is to discuss the major cellular and molecular components of the immune system that control and promote fetal survival.

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