Extrathymic Aire-expressing cells support maternal-fetal tolerance
Gillis-Buck E., Miller H., Sirota M., Sanders SJ., Ntranos V., Anderson MS., Gardner JM., MacKenzie TC.
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.