The establishment of the human placenta in early pregnancy is characterized by the presence of large numbers of natural killer cells within the maternal decidua. These NK cells have an unusual phenotype, CD3-CD16- CD56(bright), distinguishing them from peripheral blood NK cells. They may control trophoblast migration and placentation. Using a panel of monoclonal antibodies to several members of the KIR family and flow cytometry, we found that KIRs are expressed on decidual NK cells. There is variation in both the percentage of cells expressing a particular receptor and the density of receptor expression between decidual NK cells from different individuals. In anembryonic pregnancy, the proportions of decidual NK cells with a particular KIRs (GL183 and EB6) decreased significantly when compared with normal pregnancy (p = 0.01 and 0.01, respectively), raising the possibility that these NK receptors may be involved in recognition of the allogeneic fetus by the mother at the implantation site. In the decidua, more CD4+ and CD8+ T cells expressed CD69 and HLA-DR than in blood, indicating that T cells are regionally activated during early pregnancy. When compared with normal pregnancy, decidual HLA-DR+CD4+CD3+, CD69+CD8+CD3+ and HLA- DR+CD8+CD3+ T lymphocytes are significantly increased in anembryonic pregnancy. The over-activation of decidual T cells during anembryonic pregnancy may thus contribute to the increased NK cytotoxicity activity.
- Killer cell inhibitory receptors
- NK cells
- T cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy