An immunohistochemical study of the secretory immune system in human fetal endocrine glands and their precursors.

P. Gurevich, H. Ben-Hur, M. Moldavsky, S. Szvalb, I. Shperling, I. Zusman

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4 Scopus citations


We examined the presence and distribution of components of the secretory immune system (SIS) in fetal endocrine organs and their embryonic precursors. Specimens from 16 embryos (4 to 8 weeks of development) and 32 fetuses (9 to 38 weeks) were divided into those that had not been exposed to massive foreign antigenic effects (Group I, n=28) and those that had suffered from chorioamnionitis (Group II, n=20). An immunohistochemical study was performed using antibodies against the secretory component (SC), joining (J) chain, IgA, IgM, IgG, subsets of T and B lymphocytes, and macrophages. Positive immunostaining for SIS components in the precursors of endocrine organs was seen from 4 to 6 weeks of development, and was present thereafter in the pituitary body, thyroid, pancreatic islets and adrenals. J chain and immunoglobulins were found in all endocrine cells throughout intrauterine development, but the massive antigenic influence caused by chorioamnionitis decreased the latters immunoreactivity. The presence of SC in the precursors of adenohypophysis and pancreatic islet cells decreased significantly after their transformation into definitive endocrine organs. In the thyroidal follicular epithelium and the pars intermedia of the pituitary body cells, SC was present during the entire period of pregnancy. In adrenals, SC was not found. Maternal immunoglobulins, together with SC and J chain, are accumulated in endocrine gland cells from the early stages of intrauterine life. They are the major mechanism of endocrine cell defense during the early prenatal period when the common immune system is still structurally and functionally incompetent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-200
Number of pages10
JournalEarly pregnancy (Online)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2001
Externally publishedYes


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