Successful pregnancy requires carefully-coordinated communications between the mother and fetus. Immune cells and cytokine signaling pathways participate as mediators of these communications to promote healthy pregnancy. At the same time, certain infections or inflammatory conditions in pregnant mothers cause severe disease and have detrimental impacts on the developing fetus. In this review, we examine evidence for the role of maternal and fetal immune responses affecting pregnancy and fetal development, both under homeostasis and following infection. We discuss immune responses that are necessary to promote healthy pregnancy and those that lead to congenital disorders and pregnancy complications, with a particular emphasis on the role of interferons and cytokines. Understanding the contributions of the immune system in pregnancy and fetal development provides important insights into the pathogenesis underlying maternal and fetal diseases and sheds insights on possible targets for therapy.
Cytokines and interferons are necessary to promote healthy pregnancy. Yet in settings of infection and metabolic and autoimmune diseases, they can cause detrimental pregnancy outcomes. Here, Yockey and Iwasaki review evidence for the role of maternal and fetal immune responses in pregnancy and fetal development and highlight areas of clinical relevance.