News of the WeekImmunology

Embryos Attacked by Mom's Natural Defenses

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Science  21 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5452, pp. 408
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5452.408

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Immunologists trying to determine why the mother's immune system doesn't reject the father's share of the embryo as foreign tissue have mainly focused on identifying factors that might suppress the so-called acquired branch of the body's immune system, which produces T and B cells directed at very specific target antigens. Now, for the first time, researchers have evidence that suppression of the immune system's innate branch, which is evolutionarily older and far less specific, is key to embryonic survival. The results, reported on page 498, show that Crry, a cell surface protein that suppresses a key part of innate immunity called the complement system, is necessary for embryos to survive pregnancy, at least in mice.