Maternal immunity and pregnancy outcome: Focus on preconception and autophagy
Modulation of the maternal immune system before conception has a major role in determining subsequent pregnancy outcome. However, this has been a neglected area of investigation. There is a correlation between the length of time a woman is exposed to semen from her male partner and the development of regulatory T cells that limit a maternal antifetal immune response. Similarly, the composition of the vaginal microbiota influences the capacity of microorganisms to bypass the cervical barrier and colonize the uterus before pregnancy. The extent that this preconception colonization influences pre- and post-implantation gestational events depends on the types of microbes present, the genetic make-up of the mother and environmental influences on the magnitude and direction of her immune responses. Prepregnancy uterine and placental colonization with commensal bacteria may be beneficial to the fetus and newborn by generating tolerance to organisms that enhance postnatal well-being. Efforts to prevent or stop the progression of premature myometrial contractions have been limited because of an incomplete understanding of the mechanism(s) that trigger this occurrence. Based on recent studies of autophagy during gestation and parturition, inhibition of autophagy in myometrial cells may be the critical factor leading to a sequence of events culminating in induction of myometrial contractions either prematurely or at term.