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Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are implicated in the pathogenesis of several diseases. They influence both innate and adaptive immune responses through their capacity to rapidly produce large quantities of cytokines upon activation. During pregnancy maternal immunity is biased towards type 2 cytokine production to regulate type 1 cytokines that could be harmful for the developing fetus. This shift to type 2 cytokines does not occur in preeclamptic women and there is an exaggerated maternal inflammatory response which is dangerous for both mother and baby. We have therefore investigated the numbers, phenotype and functional activity of iNKT cells throughout pregnancy and in women diagnosed with preeclampsia. We demonstrate that the numbers of iNKT cells in the peripheral blood do not change between the first, second and third trimesters of pregnancy, but the cells become activated and less able to produce the type 1 cytokine IFNγ. However, iNKT cells are unchanged in preeclamptic women, when compared to normal pregnancy, suggesting that these cells are not primary players in the pathogenesis of the disease.

Original publication




Journal article


J Reprod Immunol

Publication Date





52 - 59


Antigens, CD, Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte, CD4 Antigens, CD8 Antigens, Female, Flow Cytometry, Humans, Interferon-gamma, Lectins, C-Type, Lymphocyte Activation, Natural Killer T-Cells, Pre-Eclampsia, Pregnancy