Background: Although uterine macrophages are thought to play an important regulatory role at the maternal-fetal interface, their global gene expression profile is not known.
Methodology/principal findings: Using micro-array comprising approximately 14,000 genes, the gene expression pattern of human first trimester decidual CD14+ monocytes/macrophages was characterized and compared with the expression profile of the corresponding cells in blood. Some of the key findings were confirmed by real time PCR or by secreted protein. A unique gene expression pattern intrinsic of first trimester decidual CD14+ cells was demonstrated. A large number of regulated genes were functionally related to immunomodulation and tissue remodelling, corroborating polarization patterns of differentiated macrophages mainly of the alternatively activated M2 phenotype. These include known M2 markers such as CCL-18, CD209, insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, mannose receptor c type (MRC)-1 and fibronectin-1. Further, the selective up-regulation of triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells (TREM)-2, alpha-2-macroglobulin (A2M) and prostaglandin D2 synthase (PGDS) provides new insights into the regulatory function of decidual macrophages in pregnancy that may have implications in pregnancy complications.
Conclusions/significance: The molecular characterization of decidual macrophages presents a unique transcriptional profile replete with important components for fetal immunoprotection and provides several clues for further studies of these cells.