Why Natural Killer Cells Are Not Enough: A Further Understanding of Killer Immunoglobulin-Like Receptor and Human Leukocyte Antigen

Fertil Steril. 2017 Jun;107(6):1273-1278. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2017.04.018. Epub 2017 May 10.

Abstract

The immune system's role in recurrent reproductive failure is a controversial issue in assisted reproduction. Most studies into immune system implication in reproduction have focused on finding markers of peripheral blood and less on the uterine environment. Peripheral blood natural killer cells have become an "immune study core" for women with recurrent miscarriage or recurrent implantation failure, based on the mistaken notion that they cause reproductive failure by killing or "rejecting" the embryo. Maternal-fetal tolerance begins at the uterine level, so successful adaptation to the fetus occurs after a complicated process. Insufficient uterine lining invasion by an invading extravillous trophoblast is the primary defect in pregnancy disorders such as recurrent miscarriage. This process is regulated by the interaction between maternal killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs), expressed by uterine natural killer cells (uNK), and their ligand human leukocyte antigen (HLA) C, expressed by the extravillous trophoblast. Pregnancies are an increased risk of disorders in mothers with KIR AA when the fetus has paternal HLA-C2. A recent report has indicated that the expression of more than one paternal HLA-C by the extravillous trophoblast in assisted reproduction may affect placentation in mothers with KIR AA. This review provides insight into the immune system's role in assisted reproductive treatments. These insights can have an impact on the selection of single-embryo transfer and/or oocyte/sperm donor according to HLA-C in patients with recurrent implantation failure and recurrent miscarriage depending on their KIR haplotype.

Keywords: human leukocyte antigen C (HLA-C); killer immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR); maternofetal immune tolerance; natural killer cells; uterine natural killer cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / immunology
  • Embryo Implantation / immunology
  • Female
  • HLA-C Antigens / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology*
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Placentation / immunology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, KIR / immunology*
  • Uterus / immunology*

Substances

  • HLA-C Antigens
  • Receptors, KIR