Int. J. Dev. Biol. 58: 199 - 204 (2014)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.140032kc
© UPV/EHU Press

Uterine natural killer cells as modulators of the maternal-fetal vasculature

Brooke C. Matson1 and Kathleen M. Caron*,1,2

1Departments of Cell Biology & Physiology and 2Genetics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

ABSTRACT Precise and local control of the innate immune system within the placenta is an essential component for achieving a normal and healthy pregnancy. One of the most abundant immune cells of the placenta is a subpopulation of natural killer (NK) cells that profusely populates the uterine decidua during early pregnancy. Uterine NK (uNK) cells and trophoblast cells of the placenta communicate both directly and indirectly to contribute to the critical process of spiral artery remodeling. Here, we discuss recent findings that expand our knowledge of uNK cell-trophoblast cell crosstalk and the important role it plays in the maternal vascular adaptation to pregnancy.


NK cell, trophoblast cell, placenta, spiral artery remodeling, preeclampsia

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