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Healthy pregnancy requires tolerance to fetal alloantigens as well as syngeneic embryonic and placental antigens. Given the importance of the autoimmune regulator (Aire) gene in self-tolerance, we investigated the role of Aireexpressing cells in maternal-fetal tolerance. We report that maternal ablation of Aire-expressing (Aire+) cells during early mouse pregnancy caused intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) in both allogeneic and syngeneic pregnancies. This phenotype is immune mediated, as IUGR was rescued in Rag1-deficient mice, and involved a memory response, demonstrated by recurrence of severe IUGR in second pregnancies. Single-cell RNA sequencing demonstrated that Aire+ cell depletion in pregnancy results in expansion of activated T cells, particularly T follicular helper cells. Unexpectedly, selective ablation of either Aire-expressing medullary thymic epithelial cells or extrathymic Aireexpressing cells (eTACs) mapped the IUGR phenotype exclusively to eTACs. Thus, we report a previously undescribed mechanism for the maintenance of maternal-fetal immune homeostasis and demonstrate that eTACs protect the conceptus from immune-mediated IUGR.

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Journal article


Science Immunology

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