Ontogenetic aspects of the intestinal immune system in man

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The development of the mucosal immune system in the human fetus has been studied in some detail. Aggregates of T and B cells form early Peyer's patches by 16 weeks gestation and by 19 weeks organised Peyer's patches with T and B cell zones are seen. T cells populate the mucosal lamina propria and epithelium from 11 weeks gestation and increase in number thereafter. As in the adult, most intrepithelial lymphocytes are CD8+ and most lamina propria T cells are CD4+. By 20 weeks, villus epithelial cells are HLA-DR+ and secretory component is also expressed. In the absence of lumenal stimulation in the fetus there is no intestinal secretory IgA antibody response. A few IgA plasma cells are present in fetal salivary glands but the number does not dramatically increase until after birth.