Current trends in reproductive immunology: An overview

Rupert E. Billingham, Judith R. Head

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Over the past decade has come general recognition that, directly or indirectly, immunology intrudes into nearly every aspect of mammalian reproduction. Charles Darwin's notion that the profligacy of women led to reduced fertility gained plausibility with the subsequent discovery of the auto- and alloantigenicity of spermatozoa and of testicular material. From this observation arose the reasonable expectation that immunological control of fertility may be feasible. Discovery of the importance of natural transfer of immunity from mother to offspring, the ontogeny of the immune response, and recognition that pregnancy is an almost consistently successful violation of the 'laws of transplantation' are only a few highlights or components of the burgeoning, multifaceted field we have come to recognize as the immunology of reproduction. An overview of this subject is here presented with regard to its evolutionary origins, its accomplishments, its current trends, and some of its potentialities. The immunology of reproduction has not developed in isolation; in recent years it has benefited enormously from developments in other fields, and in its turn it has exerted its own impact on other disciplines, especially on transplantation. The present preoccupation of many immunologists with immunoregulation stems largely from independent discoveries in the realm of reproductive immunobiology - the etiology of Rhesus disease and its prophylaxis, and the principle of immunological tolerance, from investigations on the peculiarities of dizygotic twins in cattle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-265
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of reproductive immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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