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J Reprod Immunol. 2011 Mar;88(2):86-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2010.11.002. Epub 2011 Jan 11.

Decidualization and angiogenesis in early pregnancy: unravelling the functions of DC and NK cells.

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Charité Centrum 12 für Innere Medizin und Dermatologie, Reproductive Immunology Research Group, University Medicine of Berlin, Germany.


Differentiation of endometrial stromal cells and formation of new maternal blood vessels at the time of embryo implantation are critical for the establishment and maintenance of gestation. The regulatory functions of decidual leukocytes during early pregnancy, particularly dendritic cells (DC) and NK cells, may be important not only for the generation of maternal immunological tolerance but also in the regulation of stromal cell differentiation and the vascular responses associated with the implantation process. However, the specific contributions of DC and NK cells during implantation are still difficult to dissect mainly due to reciprocal regulatory interactions established between them within the decidualizing microenvironment. The present review article discusses current evidence on the regulatory pathways driving decidualization in mice, suggesting that NK cells promote uterine vascular modifications that assist decidual growth but DC directly control stromal cell proliferation, angiogenesis and the homing and maturation of NK cell precursors in the pregnant uterus. Thus, successful implantation appears to result from an interplay between cellular components of the decidualizing endometrium involving immunoregulatory and pro-angiogenic functions of DC and NK cells.

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