Maternal Milk T Cells Drive Development of Transgenerational Th1 Immunity in Offspring Thymus.
J Immunol. 2016 Sep 15 ;197(6):2290-6. Epub 2016 Aug 5. PMID: 27496970
Mrinal K Ghosh
Using multiple murine foster-nursing protocols, thereby eliminating placental transfer and allowing a distinction between dam- and pup-derived cells, we show that foster nursing by an immunized dam results in development of CD8(+) T cells in nonimmunized foster pups that are specific for Ags against which the foster dam was immunized (Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Candida albicans). We have dubbed this process"maternal educational immunity"to distinguish it from passive cellular immunity. Of the variety of maternal immune cells present in milk, only T cells were detected in pup tissues. Maternal T cells, a substantial percentage of which were CD4(+)MHC class II(+), accumulated in the pup thymus and spleen during the nursing period. Further analysis of maternal cells in the pup thymus showed that a proportion was positive for maternal immunogen-specific MHC class II tetramers. To determine the outcome of Ag presentation in the thymus, the maternal or foster pup origin of immunogen-responding CD8(+) cells in foster pup spleens was assessed. Whereas∼10% were maternally derived in the first few weeks after weaning, all immunogen-responding CD8(+) T cells were pup derived by 12 wk of age. Pup-derived immunogen-responsive CD8(+) cells persisted until at least 1 y of age. Passive cellular immunity is well accepted and has been demonstrated in the human population. In this study, we show an arguably more important role for transferred immune cells: the direction of offspring T cell development. Harnessing maternal educational immunity through prepregnancy immunization programs has potential for improvement of infant immunity.