The tripartite immune conflict in placentals and a hypothesis on fetal→maternal microchimerism

Péter Apari, Lajos Rózsa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


There is a two-way traffic of immune cells through the placenta; and fetal immune cells are often present in the maternal body even long after giving birth. We present an adaptationist theory to interpret fetal→maternal microchimerism and the diverse set of concomitant medical phenomena. We handle fetal, maternal, and paternal adaptive interests separately and in interaction with one another. Fetuses may benefit from immunological information gathered by migrant cells in the maternal body, and also from improved maternal defence. However, they may be jeopardized by a selfish maternal usage of fetal→maternal microchimerism - i.e., some mothers get pregnant only to improve their immune system and then to abort. The use of microchimeric cells by the maternal immune system may contribute to the adaptive benefits of female choosiness and polyandry. While fathers may enjoy an indirect benefit from enhanced fetal and maternal health, they also face the risk of wasting sexual efforts due to selfish pregnancies of cheating females. Paternal alleles acting via clones of microchimeric cells in the maternal body could launch an immunological attack against the non-kin sperm in the female genitalia, or against the non-kin fetus in the womb. Furthermore, an intraspecific version of Zahavi's Mafia Hypothesis could explain a potential interaction between the abortion of fetuses and a subsequent rise of an autoimmune disease. We suggest that males may be capable to provoke microchimerism-induced autoimmune-like diseases in the mother in revenge of selfish pregnancies. This hypothetic paternal threat could increase the maternal costs associated to selfish pregnancies. From a medical point of view, we propose new interpretations for autoimmune-like diseases, infertility, miscarriage, and also for the prevailing connections among them. Specifically, we argue that miscarriages may cause autoimmune diseases, a reversed causality as compared to the currently accepted one.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-54
Number of pages3
JournalMedical hypotheses
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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