Immunology

Fetal stress affects adult immune function

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Science  03 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6486, pp. 43-44
DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6486.43-d

Exposure to stress in the womb not only has acute effects on the fetus but also influences physiological function later in adult life. Hong et al. propose a mechanism by which perinatal exposure to dexamethasone, a drug resembling corticosteroid stress hormone, causes problems with CD8 T cell function in adulthood. Adult offspring of mice treated with dexamethasone when pregnant had CD8 T cells with blunted production of interferon-γ, decreased response to cancer cells, and impaired antibacterial function. The problems may, in part, reflect a long-term decrease in production of corticosterone by the adrenal gland and, consequently, decreased glucocorticoid receptor signaling in the T cells.

Cell 180, 847 (2020).

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