HLA-G homodimer-induced cytokine secretion through HLA-G receptors on human decidual macrophages and natural killer cells

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Apr 7;106(14):5767-72. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0901173106. Epub 2009 Mar 20.


Human decidual CD14(+) macrophages and CD56(+) NK cells were isolated from material obtained after first-trimester pregnancy terminations. Each cell type expressed a specific surface receptor for histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA)-G (an MHC class Ib protein that is expressed on extravillous trophoblasts), LILRB1 on CD14(+) macrophages and KIR2DL4 on CD56(+) NK cells. Cross-linking with anti-LILRB1 or anti-KIR2DL4 resulted in up-regulation of a small subset of mRNAs including those for IL-6, IL-8, and TNFalpha detected using a microarray representing 114 cytokines. Incubation with transfectants expressing the HLA-G homodimer (but not with transfectants expressing the HLA-G monomer) resulted in secretion of the same cytokine proteins from both leukocyte sets. Moreover, cytokine secretion from both leukocyte sets was blocked by both the appropriate anti-receptor mAb and by anti-HLA-G. The amount of these cytokines secreted by decidual macrophages was substantially greater than that secreted by decidual NK cells. VEGF was constitutively secreted by both cell types. LILRB1, which contains an immunoreceptor tyrosine-based switch motif, functions here as an activating receptor, although it has been known as an inhibitory receptor. KIR2DL4 also functions as an activating receptor, although it also has the potential to function as an inhibitory receptor. Secretion of proinflammatory and proangiogenic proteins supports a role for these leukocytes in important processes that are essential for successful pregnancy, but they may represent only a portion of the proteins that are secreted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenic Proteins / genetics
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Decidua / cytology
  • Female
  • HLA Antigens / immunology*
  • HLA-G Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, Immunologic / immunology*
  • Receptors, KIR2DL5
  • Up-Regulation / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / genetics


  • Angiogenic Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • HLA Antigens
  • HLA-G Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Receptors, KIR2DL5
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A