The apparent immunological tolerance of the female rabbit to homologous seminal plasma proteins
Menzoian, James Oscar
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Investigations into the antigenicity of components of semen have been undertaken since the end of the last century. Landsteiner, Metalnikov, and Metchnikoff almost simultaneously demonstrated in 1899, antibody formation after the injections of sperm or testicular extracts of humans, bulls, guinea pigs and rabbit into various experimental animals. Since this time, many other investigators have demonstrated antibody formation using a wide variety of antigens from different animals and various routes and methods of immunization. The interest in this area of immune-reproduction is projected along two planes of interest. On the one hand is the idea that the immunization of a female could serve as another approach to the problem of contraception. The other plane of interest, and the one in which we were most interested, involves the possibility of a female being immunized against seminal plasma proteins through natural exposure to semen during sexual intercourse. Numerous investigators have shown semen and its components to be antigenic when injected intravenously, intraperitoneally, and subcutaneously into animals of another species. This present investigation involves three related experiments. First, using bovine serum albumen as the antigen, the vaginal mucosa of rabbits was investigated for its ability to absorb and subsequently form antibodies to this absorbed antigen. It was found that this route could serve as an effective route of immunization. Second, bovine seminal plasma was introduced into the vagina of rabbits in order to determine the antigenic nature of seminal plasma proteins. It was shown that this material was antigenic and that the vagina was an effective route of immunization. Third, rabbit seminal plasma was placed in the rabbit vagina. After repeated intravaginal inseminations, no detectable level of antibodies were found in the rabbits blood serum. Thus, it was shown that the vagina of rabbit is an effective route of immunization, and that while heterologous seminal plasma is antigenic, homologous seminal plasma does not cause an immunological response in the rabbit. It is suggested that the inability of the female of a species to form antibodies against its own seminal plasma proteins may have as its basis the presence of a bipotential reproductive tract in the early embryo. Thus, before a competent immunological system is developed, the embryo has native protein which are the same as those of the male ejaculate. Another possible explanation concerns the presence in the female of homologues of the male accessory sex glands, which may secrete protein identical to the male seminal plasma proteins.
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