Placental chemokine compartmentalisation: A novel mammalian molecular control mechanism

PLoS Biol. 2019 May 29;17(5):e3000287. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000287. eCollection 2019 May.


Atypical chemokine receptor 2 (ACKR2) is a chemokine-scavenging receptor. ACKR2-/-embryos display a reduction in size of a novel, to our knowledge, embryonic skin macrophage population referred to as 'intermediate' cells. CC chemokine receptor 2 (CCR2)-/-embryos display an identical phenotype, indicating that these cells require CCR2 to enable them to populate embryonic skin. Further analysis revealed that ACKR2-/-embryos have higher circulating concentrations of the CCR2 ligand, CC ligand 2 (CCL2); thus, ACKR2 regulates intraembryonic CCL2 levels. We show that ACKR2 is strongly expressed by trophoblasts and that it blocks movement of inflammatory chemokines, such as CCL2, from the maternal decidua into the embryonic circulation. We propose that trophoblastic ACKR2 is responsible for ensuring chemokine compartmentalisation on the maternal decidua, without which chemokines enter the embryonic circulation, disrupting gradients essential for directed intraembryonic cell migration. Overall, therefore, we describe a novel, to our knowledge, molecular mechanism whereby maternal decidual chemokines can function in a compartmentalised fashion without interfering with intraembryonic leukocyte migration. These data suggest similar functions for other atypical chemokine receptors in the placenta and indicate that defects in such receptors may have unanticipated developmental consequences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement
  • Chemokines / metabolism*
  • Decidua / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Female
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mammals / metabolism*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, Chemokine / deficiency
  • Receptors, Chemokine / metabolism
  • Skin / embryology
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Yolk Sac / metabolism


  • Ackr2 protein, mouse
  • Chemokines
  • Receptors, Chemokine