NK receptor interactions with MHC class I molecules in pregnancy

Semin Immunol. 2008 Dec;20(6):317-20. doi: 10.1016/j.smim.2008.06.002. Epub 2008 Jul 24.


Both HLA class I molecules and their receptors on Natural Killer cells, the KIR molecules, are highly polymorphic. It is generally believed that this variation is driven in response to the role of these receptors and counter-receptors in resistance to disease. Uterine NK cells are the major maternal leukocyte population present within the decidua, and they express KIR2D receptors for HLA-C, the only polymorphic class I molecule on trophoblast. Genetic and functional data suggest that the maternal KIR/fetal HLA-C interaction in pregnancy may affect the delivery of an optimal blood supply to mother and fetus. The drive for novelty in HLA-C and KIR2D allelic diversity may relate not only to survival from infections but also to reproductive success.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Communicable Diseases / immunology
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / immunology
  • Receptors, KIR / physiology*
  • Trophoblasts / physiology


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Receptors, KIR