Maternal obesity is associated with phenotypic alterations in fetal immune cells by single-cell mass cytometry

Elizabeth Ann L. Enninga, Jin Sung Jang, Benjamin Hur, Erica L. Johnson, Myra J. Wick, Jaeyun Sung, Rana Chakraborty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Problem: Prenatal exposure to metabolic dysregulation arising from maternal obesity can have negative health consequences in post-natal life. To date, the specific effects of maternal obesity on fetal immunity at a cellular level have not been well characterized. Method of Study: Using cord blood mononuclear cells (CBMCs) and cord plasma (n = 9/group) isolated from infants born to women with a high body mass index (BMI>25kg/m2) compared to women with a normal BMI (18-25kg/m2), we evaluated differences in immune cell populations using single-cell mass cytometry (CyTOF). CBMCs were matched according to potentially confounding variables, such as maternal and gestational age, ethnicity, smoking status, and gravidity. Statistical results were adjusted for fetal sex. Data were analyzed by viSNE and FlowSOM softwares in Cytobank. Results: In newborn CBMCs from women with high BMI, we observed changes in frequency and phenotype of immune cell populations, including significant increases in CD4+ T cells and decreases in myeloid cell populations. IL-12p40 and MDC concentrations were significantly elevated in the high BMI group compared to control. Conclusion: This study demonstrates an association between maternal obesity and fetal immunity. Our results warrant following long-term immunologic outcomes and associated clinical risks in children born to women with a high pre-pregnancy BMI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13358
JournalAmerican Journal of Reproductive Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • body mass index
  • cord blood
  • immunity
  • mass cytometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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