In adults, the nonclassical MHC class I molecule, FcRn, binds both IgG and albumin and rescues both from a degradative fate, endowing both proteins with high plasma concentrations. FcRn also transports IgG from mother to young during gestation. Anticipating that a detailed understanding of gestational IgG transport in the mouse may give us a useful model to understand FcRn function in the human placenta, we have studied FcRn in the mouse yolk sac placenta in detail. Analyzing day 19-20 fetuses of the three FcRn genotypes resulting from matings of FcRn(+/-) parents, we found that FcRn(-/-) fetuses showed negligible IgG concentrations (1.5 microg/ml), whereas IgG concentrations in FcRn(+/-) fetuses were about a half (176 microg/ml) that of FcRn(+/+) fetuses (336 microg/ml), indicating that FcRn is responsible for virtually all IgG transport from mother to fetus. Immunofluorescence and immunoblotting studies indicated that FcRn is expressed in the endoderm of the yolk sac placenta but not in other cells of the yolk sac placenta or in the chorioallantoic placenta. IgG was found in the endoderm of both FcRn(+/+) and FcRn(-/-) yolk sac placentas and in the mesenchyme of FcRn(+/+) but was missing from the mesenchyme of FcRn(-/-) yolk sac placentas, indicating that IgG enters the endoderm constitutively but is moved out of the endoderm by FcRn. The similarities of these results to human placental FcRn expression and function are striking.
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