The unique properties of uterine NK cells

Am J Reprod Immunol. 2010 Jun;63(6):434-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0897.2009.00794.x. Epub 2010 Jan 4.

Abstract

Natural killer (NK) cells are lymphocytes of the innate immunity system that are able to kill various hazardous pathogens and tumors. However, it is now widely accepted that NK cells also possess non-destructive functions, as has been demonstrated for uterine NK cells. Here, we review the unique properties of the NK cells in the uterine mucosa, prior to and during pregnancy. We discuss the phenotype and function of mouse and human endometrial and decidual NK cells and suggest that the major function of decidual NK cells is to assist in fetal development. We further discuss the origin of decidual NK cells and suggest several possibilities that might explain their accumulation in the decidua during pregnancy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Decidua* / cytology
  • Decidua* / immunology
  • Endometrium* / cytology
  • Endometrium* / immunology
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Pregnancy
  • Uterus / immunology*