Composition, Development, and Function of Uterine Innate Lymphoid Cells

J Immunol. 2015 Oct 15;195(8):3937-45. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1500689. Epub 2015 Sep 14.


Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), including NK cells, contribute to barrier immunity and tissue homeostasis. In addition to the role of uterine NK cells in placentation and fetal growth, other uterine ILCs (uILCs) are likely to play roles in uterine physiology and pathology. In this article, we report on the composition of uILCs in the endometrium during the luteal phase and in the decidua during early pregnancy. Whereas nonkiller uILC1s and uILC2s are barely detectable in mouse and not detected in humans, a sizeable population of uILC3s is found in human endometrium and decidua, which are mostly NCR(+) and partially overlap with previously described IL-22-producing uterine NK cells. Development of mouse uILC3 is Nfil3 independent, suggesting unique features of uILCs. Indeed, although the cytokine production profile of mouse uILCs recapitulates that described in other tissues, IL-5, IL-17, and IL-22 are constitutively produced by uILC2s and uILC3s. This study lays the foundation to understand how ILCs function in the specialized uterine mucosa, both in tissue homeostasis and barrier immunity and during pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Endometrium / cytology
  • Endometrium / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Pregnancy / immunology*


  • Cytokines