Maternal Leukocytes and Infant Immune Programming during Breastfeeding

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The fetal immune system develops in a rather sterile environment relative to the outside world and, therefore, lacks antigenic education. Soon after birth, the newborn is exposed to the hostile environment of pathogens. Recently, animal- and limited human-based studies have indicated that help from the mother, upon transfer of leukocytes and their products via breast milk feeding, greatly assists the newborn's immune system. Here, I discuss the newest advances on how milk leukocytes impact early life immunity, with an emphasis on the development of the infant T cell repertoire and early immune responses in the periphery and gut-associated lymphoid tissue. A deeper understanding of these novel mechanistic insights may inform potential translational approaches to improving immunity in infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-239
Number of pages15
JournalTrends in Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • breast milk
  • CTL
  • GALT
  • IgA
  • IgG
  • intestine
  • lymphocytes
  • mother
  • neonate
  • Peyer's patches
  • plasma cells
  • repertoire
  • Th APC
  • thymus
  • trafficking
  • transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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