Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Maternal immunization with ovalbumin prevents neonatal allergy development and up-regulates inhibitory receptor FcγRIIB expression on B cells

Jefferson R Victor, Bruno P Muniz, Ana E Fusaro, Cyro A de Brito, Eliana F Taniguchi, Alberto JS Duarte and Maria N Sato*

Author Affiliations

Laboratory of Dermatology and Immunodeficiencies, School of Medicine, University of São Paulo, LIM 56, São Paulo, Brazil

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BMC Immunology 2010, 11:11  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-11-11

Published: 11 March 2010



Preconception allergen immunization prevents neonatal allergen sensitization in mice by a complex interaction between regulatory cells/factors and antibodies. The present study assessed the influence of maternal immunization with ovalbumin (OVA) on the immune response of 3 day-old and 3 week-old offspring immunized or non-immunized with OVA and evaluated the effect of IgG treatment during fetal development or neonatal period.


Maternal immunization with OVA showed increased levels of FcγRIIb expression in splenic B cells of neonates, which were maintained for up to 3 weeks and not affected by additional postnatal OVA immunization. Maternal immunization also exerted a down-modulatory effect on both IL-4 and IFN-γ-secreting T cells and IL-4 and IL-12- secreting B cells. Furthermore, immunized neonates from immunized mothers showed a marked inhibition of antigen-specifc IgE Ab production and lowered Th2/Th1 cytokine levels, whereas displaying enhanced FcγRIIb expression on B cells. These offspring also showed reduced antigen-specific proliferative response and lowered B cell responsiveness. Moreover, in vitro evaluation revealed an impairment of B cell activation upon engagement of B cell antigen receptor by IgG from OVA-immunized mice. Finally, in vivo IgG transference during pregnancy or breastfeeding revealed that maternal Ab transference was able to increase regulatory cytokines, such as IL-10, in the prenatal stage; yet only the postnatal treatment prevented neonatal sensitization. None of the IgG treatments induced immunological changes in the offspring, as it was observed for those from OVA-immunized mothers.


Maternal immunization upregulates the inhibitory FcγRIIb expression on offspring B cells, avoiding skewed Th2 response and development of allergy. These findings contribute to the advancement of prophylactic strategies to prevent allergic diseases in early life.