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J Immunol. 2002 Jan 1;168(1):22-8.

Contributions from self-renewal and trafficking to the uterine NK cell population of early pregnancy.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences, Building No.40, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1G 2W1.


Uterine NK (uNK) cells are abundant in human and murine uteri during decidualization. It is unclear whether precursors of uNK (pre-uNK) cells self-renew or are recruited from other sites. To assess self-renewal of pre-uNK cells, uterine segments from NK cell-competent mice were grafted orthotopically into NK/uNK cell-deficient or wild-type mice. Only in wild-type recipients did decidualized grafts contain uNK cells, indicating that pre-uNK cells do not self-renew in uterus. To identify pre-uNK cell sources, thymus, bone marrow, lymph node, or spleen cells were grafted from virgin or pregnant NK cell-competent donors into mated NK/uNK cell-deficient recipients. Cells from secondary lymphoid tissues of pregnant donors gave high level uNK cell reconstitution, which was independent of chemokine receptors CCR2 or CCR5. Pregnancy-induced changes to lymphocyte-endothelial cell interactions were documented using adhesion of human lymphocytes to frozen mouse tissue sections under shear. A dynamic increase was observed in L-selectin- and alpha(4) integrin-dependent adhesion of CD56(bright) NK cells to decidualizing uterus and in human PBL adhesion to lymph node endothelium. These data support a model that attributes the dramatic increases in human and murine uNK cells during decidualization to precursor cell recruitment.

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