Immunology of reproduction: Present trends

R. E. Billingham, J. R. Head

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 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 will be 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 the 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 Rh 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)125-136
Number of pages12
JournalAnnales d'Immunologie
Volume131 D
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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