Leukocyte driven-decidual angiogenesis in early pregnancy

Cell Mol Immunol. 2014 Nov;11(6):522-37. doi: 10.1038/cmi.2014.63. Epub 2014 Jul 28.


Successful pregnancy and long-term, post-natal maternal and offspring cardiac, vascular and metabolic health require key maternal cardiovascular adaptations over gestation. Within the pregnant decidualizing uterus, coordinated vascular, immunological and stromal cell changes occur. Considerable attention has been given to the roles of uterine natural killer (uNK) cells in initiating decidual spiral arterial remodeling, a process normally completed by mid-gestation in mice and in humans. However, leukocyte roles in much earlier, region specific, decidual vascular remodeling are now being defined. Interest in immune cell-promoted vascular remodeling is driven by vascular aberrations that are reported in human gestational complications such as infertility, recurrent spontaneous abortion, preeclampsia (PE) and fetal growth restriction. Appropriate maternal cardiovascular responses during pregnancy protect mothers and their children from later cardiovascular disease risk elevation. One of the earliest uterine responses to pregnancy in species with hemochorial placentation is stromal cell decidualization, which creates unique niches for angiogenesis and leukocyte recruitment. In early decidua basalis, the aspect of the implantation site that will cradle the developing placenta and provide the major blood vessels to support mature placental functions, leukocytes are greatly enriched and display specialized properties. UNK cells, the most abundant leukocyte subset in early decidua basalis, have angiogenic abilities and are essential for normal early decidual angiogenesis. The regulation of uNK cells and their roles in determining maternal and progeny cardiovascular health over pregnancy and postpartum are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / physiology
  • Decidua / physiology*
  • Embryo Implantation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Leukocytes / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic*
  • Uterus / immunology*
  • Vascular Remodeling / immunology