Hypoxic Cell Culture at the University of Kansas Medical Center


Prof. Margaret Petroff is at the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas and has recently relocated to Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

  1. “Minor Histocompatibility Antigens Are Expressed in Syncytiotrophoblast and Trophoblast Debris: Implications for Maternal Alloreactivity to the Fetus” (2012) Olivia Holland,Caitlin Linscheid,Herbert Hodes, Traci Nauser,Melissa Gilliam,Peter Stone, Larry Chamley, and Margaret Petroff; Am J Pathol. 2012 Jan; 180(1): 256–266
  2. “Maternal CD4+ and CD8+ T Cell Tolerance Towards a Fetal Minor Histocompatibility Antigen in T Cell Receptor Transgenic Mice(2013) Antoine Perchellet, Susmita Jasti, and Margaret Petroff; Biol Reprod. 2013 Oct; 89(4): 102, 1-12.

From an immunological perspective, pregnancy is fascinating in that the fetus and its placenta represent a semi-allograft which must normally be tolerated, but sometimes isn’t. Women who have borne children possess T cell populations specific for fetal mHAgs, and HypOxystation users Margaret Petroff and Caitlin Linscheid examined where and how the maternal immune system is exposed to them. As oxygen levels in the placenta are very low at the beginning of pregnancy and increase as vascularization progresses, they use an HypOxystation for their cell culture, both to mimic the 8% O2 in a normal term placenta and the approx. 2% found in pre-eclampsia. Maternal alloimmunization during pregnancy has implications for organ and cell transplantation, autoimmunity, and recurrent miscarriages. 

The lab has been using an HypOxystation for about two and a half years now. We spoke with Dr. Caitlin Linscheid at the lab there; HypOxygen asked how the lab uses the workstation for hypoxic cell culture.

 Q: What is the focus of the research at your lab?

A: We have three different project areas we are looking into: fetal antigens and maternal recognition of the fetus during pregnancy; autoimmune diseases and their impact on fertility; and the relationship between pregnancy and cancer.

I’ll be presenting a poster at the Society for Reproductive Investigation conference in San Francisco in March regarding trophoblast-derived exosomes and their effects on primary dentritic cells. My research, broadly speaking, is on fetal antigens expressed in the placenta and maternal recognition of the fetus during pregnancy. It has been demonstrated that the maternal immune system can form a T cell response to fetal antigens, and those can be coded on the Y chromosome or be polymorphic among individuals. These are expressed in the placenta, in the syncytiotrophoblast, and are shed into the maternal bloodstream. This form of antigen exposure during pregnancy is balanced out by other signals sent out by the placenta that promote tolerance of the essentially foreign fetus. The trophoblasts do not express the classical MHC’s, so they cannot actively present their antigens, but they do express some non-classical MHC’s like HLAG, which have been shown to be implicated in tolerance. Regulatory T cells also play an important role in maintain tolerance of the fetus. I am characterizing the fetal antigens in the placenta, specifically in the context of pre-eclampsia, which is a disorder occurring in 5-8% of pregnancies and is characterized by high blood pressure, proteinuria and kidney failure. Pre-eclampsia can have very serious effects for both the mother and child.

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