Background: During pregnancy, especially during the third trimester, multiple sclerosis (MS) disease activity is reduced. It is not known which factors mediate this disease amelioration. Objective: To study whether the frequency of two important T-cell subsets, T-helper 17 (Th17) and regulatory T-cells (Treg), is altered in relation to pregnancy-induced MS disease amelioration. Methods: Each individual was tested longitudinally, after sampling of blood at timepoints before pregnancy, during the first and third trimester, and in the early post-partum period. Frequencies of Th17 cells were assessed after short (4 hours) re-stimulation of peripheral blood lymphocytes with PMA and ionomycin, followed by flow cytometry using CD4, CD45RO and IL-17A antibodies. To assess peripheral blood Treg frequencies, we used six-colour flow cytometry with antibodies against CD3, CD4, CD25, CD127, FoxP3 and HLA-DR, to specifically identify Treg. Results: Both MS patients (n = 9) and controls (n = 8) displayed unaltered Th17 frequencies during pregnancy. In contrast, circulating Treg frequency significantly decreased in MS patients (n = 15) during the first and third (p < 0.001) trimesters compared with the period before pregnancy. In the post-partum period, the frequency of circulating Treg again resurged back to near pre-pregnancy levels. In controls (n = 15) comparable frequency kinetics were observed in that post-partum a significant increase in circulating Treg frequency was detected compared with the first (p < 0.001) and third (p = 0.012) trimester. Conclusions: Third trimester amelioration is not related to the fluctuation of circulating Th17 cells. Furthermore, a paradoxical decrease of immunosuppressive circulating Tregs can be observed during this phase, both in MS patients and controls.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Treg and Th17 cells, immunology, multiple sclerosis, pregnancy, relapsing remitting
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1177/1352458510373939, hdl.handle.net/1765/28390
Citation
Neuteboom, R.F, Verbraak, E, Wierenga-Wolf, A.F, van Meurs, M, Steegers-Theunissen, R.P.M, de Groot, C.J.M, … Hintzen, R.Q. (2010). Pregnancy-induced fluctuations in functional T-cell subsets in multiple sclerosis patients. Multiple Sclerosis: clinical and laboratory research, 16(9), 1073–1078. doi:10.1177/1352458510373939