The traditional paradigm suggests that during normal pregnancy maternal immunological tolerance of the allogenic fetus is association with a maternal T-lymphocyte shift from a Th1 to a Th2 phenotype, with the opposite effect reported in patients with recurrent miscarriage. However, studies on maternal peripheral blood are conflicting. In the present study, we characterized the maternal CD4 T-cell effector subsets, including the recently described Th17 subset, during normal pregnancy (cross-sectional cohort, n=71; longitudinal cohort, n=17) and contrasted this with women with recurrent miscarriage (n=24). Longitudinal analysis of peripheral blood from normal pregnancy demonstrated a fall in the percentage of Th17 cells between the first and second trimester (P≤0.05), but no significant changes were observed across gestation or the post-natal period in Th1 or Th2 subsets. In contrast, in women with a history of recurrent miscarriage, an elevated proportion of Th17 (0.314% compared with 0.097%; P=0.0009) and Th1 (12.4% compared with 5.3%; P=0.0002) cells was detected. The suggestion that Th17 cells may have a role in the normal events of implantation and early pregnancy requires further evaluation and mechanistic studies. The results of the present study, by conducting a careful longitudinal analysis, demonstrate that a peripheral Th1/Th2 shift is not a requirement for normal pregnancy. By contrast, the profound increase in Th1 and Th17 cells in women with recurrent miscarriage indicates that peripheral immunological dysfunction may be important in this group specifically, and these assays may be important in guiding therapeutic interventions in this group and warrant further investigation to determine whether they are predictive of outcome or responses to immunomodulatory therapy.

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