The Role of Uterine NK Cells in Normal Reproduction and Reproductive Disorders

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2015;868:95-126. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-18881-2_5.


The human endometrium contains a substantial population of leucocytes which vary in distribution during the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. An unusual population of natural killer (NK) cells, termed uterine NK (uNK) cells, are the most abundant of these cells in early pregnancy. The increase in number of uNK cells in the mid-secretory phase of the cycle with further increases in early pregnancy has focused attention on the role of uNK cells in early pregnancy. Despite many studies, the in vivo role of these cells is uncertain. This chapter reviews current information regarding the role of uNK cells in healthy human pregnancy and evidence indicating their importance in various reproductive and pregnancy problems. Studies in humans are limited by the availability of suitable tissues and the limitations of extrapolation from animal models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Reproduction / immunology*
  • Uterus / immunology*