Perforin and Fas/FasL cytolytic pathways at the maternal-fetal interface

Am J Reprod Immunol. 2005 Nov;54(5):241-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0897.2005.00320.x.


The immunogenetic enigma of maternal acceptance of the fetal semiallograft has been termed an immunological paradox. The first trimester decidua is heavily infiltrated with CD56(bright) CD16- uterine natural killer (uNK) cells which must be prepared to respond to potential pathogen challenges and still be able to control immune responses that allow the development of the fetus. The significant presence of cytolytic mediators, perforin and Fas/Fas ligand (FasL), at the maternal-fetal interface raises a question of their role(s) in the immunological interrelations between maternal tissues and trophoblast cells. As uNK cells in vitro lyse target cell lines (K562, P815 and P815Fas) using these effector molecules, it seems that, although immunocompetent, their cytotoxicity is not directed against trophoblast during normal pregnancy. Therefore, it is generally believed that the hormonal and Th1/Th2 cytokine balance plays an important role in the tolerance and maintenance of pregnancy. This paper gives an overview of the recent findings on the complex immunological events that occur at the maternal-fetal interface.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • CD56 Antigen / immunology
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / immunology
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Female
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Humans
  • K562 Cells
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / immunology*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / immunology*
  • Perforin
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins
  • Pregnancy / immunology*
  • Receptors, IgG / immunology
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / immunology*
  • Trophoblasts / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factors / immunology*
  • fas Receptor


  • Antigens, CD
  • CD56 Antigen
  • FAS protein, human
  • FASLG protein, human
  • FCGR3B protein, human
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factors
  • fas Receptor
  • Perforin