Maternal Serum Cytokine Concentrations in Healthy Pregnancy and Preeclampsia

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The maternal immune response is essential for successful pregnancy, promoting immune tolerance to the fetus while maintaining innate and adaptive immunity. Uncontrolled, increased proinflammatory responses are a contributing factor to the pathogenesis of preeclampsia. The Th1/Th2 cytokine shift theory, characterised by bias production of Th2 anti-inflammatory cytokine midgestation, was frequently used to reflect the maternal immune response in pregnancy. This theory is simplistic as it is based on limited information and does not consider the role of other T cell subsets, Th17 and Tregs. A range of maternal peripheral cytokines have been measured in pregnancy cohorts, albeit the changes in individual cytokine concentrations across gestation is not well summarised. Using available data, this review was aimed at summarising changes in individual maternal serum cytokine concentrations throughout healthy pregnancy and evaluating their association with preeclampsia. We report that TNF-α increases as pregnancy progresses, IL-8 decreases in the second trimester, and IL-4 concentrations remain consistent throughout gestation. Lower second trimester IL-10 concentrations may be an early predictor for developing preeclampsia. Proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-2, IL-8, and IL-6) are significantly elevated in preeclampsia. More research is required to determine the usefulness of using cytokines, particularly IL-10, as early biomarkers of pregnancy health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6649608
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Pregnancy
Early online date23 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished online - 23 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Toni Spence et al.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • pregnancy
  • maternal
  • immune response
  • cytokine
  • preeclampsia


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