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J Exp Med. 2004 Oct 18;200(8):951-5.

NK cells and trophoblasts: partners in pregnancy.

Author information

  • Department of Structural Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305-5126, USA. peropa@stanford.edu.


In placental mammals, viviparity--the production of living young within the mother's body--evolved under the auspices of the immune system. Elements of immunity were incorporated, giving pregnancy a mildly inflammatory character. Formation of the placenta, the organ that feeds the fetus, involves a cooperation between maternal natural killer (NK) cells and fetal trophoblast cells that remodels the blood supply. Recent research reveals that this process and human reproductive success are influenced by polymorphic HLA-C ligands and their killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR).

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