Mouse Uterine Natural Killer Cell Functions During Early Pregnancy
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Early pregnancy is characterized by complex interactions between blood vessels, leukocytes, and conceptus-derived trophoblasts within the gestational uterus. Uterine Natural Killer (uNK) cells become the most abundant leukocyte during decidualization and produce a wide array of angiogenic factors, yet little is known regarding their early pregnancy functions. To characterize the role(s) of uNK cells, whole mount in situ immunohistochemistry of live early implant sites was performed. A timecourse examination of murine early pregnancy (virgin, and gd4.5-9.5) implantation sites was performed. Comparison of Gd6.5, 8.5 and 9.5 implant sites from BALB/c+/+ controls (BALB/c) and BALB/c-Rag2-/-Il2rg-/- (alymphoid) identified anomalies that result from the absence of lymphocytes. In alymphoid decidua basalis, mesometrial angiogenesis was widespread but pruning of nascent vessels within alymphoid decidua basalis was deficient. As early gestation progressed, vessels of alymphoid decidua basalis showed no evidence for remodeling. Alymphoid implantation sites showed ~24h delay in uterine lumen closure and embryonic development. To determine if uNK cells would normalize the anomalies observed in alymphoid implantation sites, adoptive cell transfer of NK+ B- T- marrow to alymphoid mice was performed. All of the above anomalies were reversed by adoptive transfer of NK+B-T- marrow. My results suggest that uNK cells support vascular growth and development which ensures the decidua can support the growing conceptus early in pregnancy prior to formation and function of the placenta. Human decidual NK cells may fill similar roles and be important targets for strategies designed to correct intra-uterine growth restriction.