Antigen expression on early mouse trophoblast


THE mammalian foetus inherits paternal as well as maternal genes and can be considered to constitute a naturally occurring and highly successful allograft1. It has been suggested that an important factor in the survival of the foetus in an immunocompetent histoincompatible mother might be the presence of an antigenically deficient barrier of foetal trophoblast cells2–4. Cell surface antigens determined by minor (non-H–2) histocompatibility loci have been demonstrated on cleavage stage mouse embryos5, and subsequently major (H–2) as well as non-H–2 determinants have been detected on the trophectoderm of pre-implantation mouse blastocysts6,7. The expression of these antigens, however, is considerably reduced, below detectable levels in the case of H–2, on blastocytes which have been activated for implantation from a state of experimentally induced delay6,7. In addition, immunofluorescence8, immunoperoxidase7 and mixed haemadsorption (MHA)9 studies have failed to demonstrate histocompatibility antigens on the trophoblast component of blastocysts cultured as outgrowths in vitro. In contrast to all these findings, however, a recent report has claimed to demonstrate both maternally and paternally inherited antigens on blastocyst outgrowths by means of an MHA technique10. We have now confirmed this report and reconciled the apparently contradictory results by investigation of the identity of the antigens expressed by the trophoblast at this early stage of its differentiation in four mouse inbred strains.

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SELLENS, M. Antigen expression on early mouse trophoblast. Nature 269, 60–61 (1977).

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