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J Mol Med (Berl). 2008 Jul;86(7):837-52. doi: 10.1007/s00109-008-0342-2. Epub 2008 May 28.

Interaction between dendritic cells and natural killer cells during pregnancy in mice.

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University Medicine of Berlin, Forschungshaus, Raum 2.0547, Augustenburger Platz 1, 13353, Berlin, Germany.


A complex regulation of innate and adaptive immune responses at the maternal fetal interface promotes tolerance of trophoblast cells carrying paternally derived antigens. Such regulatory functions involve uterine dendritic cells (uDC) and natural killer (uNK) cells. The existence of a NK and DC "cross talk" has been revealed in various experimental settings; its biological significance ranging from cooperative stimulation to cell lysis. Little is known about the presence or role of NK and DC cross talk at the maternal fetal interface. The present study shows that mouse NK and DC interactions are subject to modulation by trophoblast cells in vitro. This interaction promotes a tolerogenic microenvironment characterized by downregulation of the expression of activation markers on uNK cells and uDC and dominance of Th2 cytokines. NK and DC interactions would also influence uterine cell proliferation and this process would be strongly modulated by trophoblast-derived signals. Indeed; while low proliferation rates were observed upon regular coculture allowing direct contact between uterine cells and trophoblasts, incubation in a transwell culture system markedly increased uterine cell proliferation suggesting that soluble factors are key mediators in the molecular "dialog" between the mother and the conceptus during the establishment of mouse pregnancy. Our data further reveal that the regulatory functions of trophoblast cells associated with tolerance induction are impaired in high abortion murine matings. Interestingly, we observed that secretion of interleukin-12p70 by uDC is dramatically abrogated in the presence of uNK cells. Taken together, our results provide the first evidence that a delicate balance of interactions involving NK cells, DC, and trophoblasts at the mouse maternal fetal interface supports a successful pregnancy outcome.

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