Functions of uterine natural killer cells are mediated by interferon gamma production during murine pregnancy

Semin Immunol. 2001 Aug;13(4):235-41. doi: 10.1006/smim.2000.0319.


The dominant lymphocytes in healthy human and murine implantation sites are pregnancy-associated uterine natural killer (uNK) cells. These cells produce 90% of pregnancy-induced, uterine interferon (IFN)- gamma, a cytokine that regulates expression of more than 0.5% of the mouse genome. Implantation sites in uNK cell-deficient and IFN- gamma -signal-disrupted mice display anomalies in decidua and its spiral arteries. Reconstitution of uNK cell-deficient females with bone marrow containing normal NK cell progenitors, establishes uNK cells and reverses the anomalies. Grafts from IFN- gamma(-/-)mice are restored uNK cells, but the uNK cells did not reverse the phenotypes. This review focuses on the functions of uNK cell-derived IFN- gamma and the genes that it may regulate in the pregnant uterus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Decidua / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Models, Biological
  • Pregnancy / immunology*
  • Uterus / blood supply
  • Uterus / immunology*


  • Interferon-gamma