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Biol Reprod. 1997 Jan;56(1):169-79.

Absence of natural killer cells during murine pregnancy is associated with reproductive compromise in TgE26 mice.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


Strategies of cell depletion were pursued to extend understanding of the functions of natural killer (NK) cell-like large granulated lymphocytes found in the rodent uterus during pregnancy. Repeated infusions of antibody to Ly-49G2, a surface marker thought to be expressed by the progenitor forms of these cells, removed Ly-49G2+ cells from the virgin but not the pregnant uterus. Large granulated uterine lymphocytes also differentiated during pregnancy in transgenic mice that carried a deletion in the IL-2 gene. This cell population was absent in two strains of mice, p56lck-/lck-.IL-2Rbeta-/IL-2Rbeta- and TgE26. Implantation sites in both of these strains had histopathological anomalies in the zone of decidualization. In TgE26 mice, a sudden onset of fetal loss began at Day 10 of gestation. Fetal death was associated with progressive changes in the maternal uterine arterioles, suggestive of localized arteriosclerosis associated with hypertension. TgE26 females carried immune-competent fetuses to term, apparently through preventive or compensatory mechanisms that may modify the uterine vasculature after the onset of vascular pathology. These studies are the first to suggest a vital role for large granulated lymphocytes in the promotion of fetal survival and pregnancy success.

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