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Suppressive effect of seminal plasma on lymphocyte activation


ALTHOUGH spermatozoa bear histocompatibility antigens (H-2 in mice1,2 and HL-A in man3,4) accelerated (immune) skin graft rejection is not known to occur in females previously multiply inseminated by a graft donor. The absence of detectable transplantation immunity in inseminated females correlates with the generally low immunogenicity of spermatozoa given by other routes. The decreased antigenicity of spermatozoa is not explained by a privileged immune status of the female reproductive tract as the vaginal route is adequate for immunisation against a variety of antigens5, especially if the tract is wounded6, and antibodies to spermatozoa decrease fertility in some situations7. Thus, it is probable that mechanisms have evolved to maintain a low immunogenicity of spermatozoa. What seems to be an exception to the low immunogenicity of spermatozoa—that antibody to a tissue-specific sperm antigen occurs naturally without deliberate immunisation8,9 and is readily elicited in a variety of species10—may represent a protective mechanism. Many substances present in seminal plasma may exert a suppressive effect by coating sperm membrane antigens or inducing immunosuppression by other means.

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STITES, D., ERICKSON, R. Suppressive effect of seminal plasma on lymphocyte activation. Nature 253, 727–729 (1975).

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