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Mol Hum Reprod. 2004 Mar;10(3):189-95. Epub 2004 Jan 29.

Membrane-bound HLA-G activates proliferation and interferon-gamma production by uterine natural killer cells.

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Department of Blood Transfusion and Transplantation Immunology (603), University Medical Centre Nijmegen, PO Box 9101, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


The expression of HLA-G by invading trophoblasts suggests a role for this molecule in embryo implantation. Putative targets for HLA-G are the uterine natural killer cells (uNK) that are abundantly present at the time of implantation. Since NK cells are potent producers of a variety of cytokines, interaction with HLA-G may result in the production of cytokines involved in trophoblast differentiation or tissue remodelling. In the present study we investigated the effect of membrane-bound HLA-G (mHLA-G) on the uterine mononuclear cell population (UMC) as a whole and on uNK cells in particular by measuring proliferation and cytokine production [interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma)/vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)/leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF)/interleukin-3 (IL-3)]. Uterine cells were isolated from endometrium of non-pregnant women at the time that the endometrium is thought to be receptive to implantation, and then co-cultured with HLA-class I(-)/HLA-class II(+) 721.221 B-LCL cells transfected with mHLA-G. HLA-G suppressed the alloproliferative response of unfractionated UMC to 721.221 cells. Also, IFN-gamma and IL-3 production was strongly reduced. In contrast, purified uNK cells were stimulated by mHLA-G. Proliferation as well as IFN-gamma production was increased after co-culture with mHLA-G transfected 721.221 cells. HLA-G stimulated VEGF production by UMC as well as purified uNK cells. LIF-levels were below the detection level of our enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. In conclusion, our data show that mHLA-G stimulates proliferation and cytokine production by NK cells, while down-modulating the response of unfractionated UMC.

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