In utero priming of fetal immune activation: Myths and mechanisms

Manuel S. Vidal, Ramkumar Menon

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Mechanisms of fetal immune system development in utero remain incompletely elucidated. Protective immunity, the arm of reproductive immunology concerned with the progressive education of the fetal immune system as pregnancy advances, allows for programming of the immune system and immune maturation in utero and provides a responsive system to respond to rapid microbial and other antigenic exposure ex utero. Challenges in studying fetal tissues, immune system development, and the contributions of various endogenous and exogenous factors to this process are difficult to study as a progressive sampling of fetal biological samples is impractical during pregnancy, and animal models are limited. This review provides a summary of mechanisms of protective immunity and how it has been shaped, from transplacental transfer of immunoglobulins, cytokines, metabolites, as well as antigenic microchimeric cells to perhaps more controversial notions of materno-fetal transfer of bacteria that subsequently organize into microbiomes within the fetal tissues. This review will also provide a quick overview of future direction in the area of research on fetal immune system development and discusses methods to visualize fetal immune populations and determine fetal immune functions, as well as a quick look into appropriate models for studying fetal immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103922
JournalJournal of Reproductive Immunology
StatePublished - Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Fetal immunity
  • Immune training
  • Immunology
  • Ontogeny
  • Pregnancy
  • Protective immunity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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