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Int Immunol. 1991 Aug;3(8):743-50.

Accumulation of CD16-CD56+ natural killer cells with high affinity interleukin 2 receptors in human early pregnancy decidua.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Nara Medical University, Japan.


Most human peripheral blood natural killer (NK) cells express the phenotype CD16+CD56+. However, a very minor subset of NK cells express CD16-CD56+, and these NK cells bear both interleukin 2 receptor (IL-2R)alpha (p55) and IL-2R beta (p75) (high affinity IL-2 receptors). In this report, we demonstrate that in human early pregnancy decidua--an interface between maternal immunocompetent cells and fetus (placenta)--abundant (approximately 83%) CD16-CD56+ NK cells with high affinity IL-2 receptors were present, and these cells responded to low amounts of IL-2 (4.5 pM). These CD16-CD56+ NK cells significantly expressed an early activation antigen, CD69, in vivo, whereas peripheral CD16-CD56+ NK cells did not express CD69. These findings suggest that CD16-CD56+ NK cells in early pregnancy decidua may be activated in vivo, and may play an important role in immunoregulation during early pregnancy. Also, decidual lymphocytes may be useful materials to study the mechanism of MHC-unrestricted cytotoxicity of this type of NK cells.

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