Research Article

The maternal microbiota drives early postnatal innate immune development

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Science  18 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6279, pp. 1296-1302
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2571

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Mom's bugs shape of spring immunity

In utero, babies are relatively microbe-free but are quickly colonized at birth. These early microbial residents help to shape our immune systems. Gomez de Agüero et al. wondered whether the maternal microbiome also affects the of springs' immune system during gestation. To do this, they transiently colonized otherwise microbe-free pregnant mice. Compared to those born to microbe-free moms, pups born to colonized moms had increased numbers of certain innate immune cells and different patterns of gene expression in their guts.

Science, this issue p. 1296


Postnatal colonization of the body with microbes is assumed to be the main stimulus to postnatal immune development. By transiently colonizing pregnant female mice, we show that the maternal microbiota shapes the immune system of the offspring. Gestational colonization increases intestinal group 3 innate lymphoid cells and F4/80+CD11c+ mononuclear cells in the pups. Maternal colonization reprograms intestinal transcriptional profiles of the offspring, including increased expression of genes encoding epithelial antibacterial peptides and metabolism of microbial molecules. Some of these effects are dependent on maternal antibodies that potentially retain microbial molecules and transmit them to the offspring during pregnancy and in milk. Pups born to mothers transiently colonized in pregnancy are better able to avoid inflammatory responses to microbial molecules and penetration of intestinal microbes.

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