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Reproduction. 2012 Mar;143(3):359-75. doi: 10.1530/REP-11-0325. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

Analysis of uterine gene expression in interleukin-15 knockout mice reveals uterine natural killer cells do not play a major role in decidualization and associated angiogenesis.

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Department of Physiology, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Carbondale, Illinois 62901, USA.


During decidualization, uterine natural killer (uNK) cells are the most abundant immune cell types found in the uterus. Although it is well known that they play key roles in spiral arteriole modification and the maintenance of decidual integrity seen after mid-pregnancy, their roles in the differentiation of decidual cells and accompanying angiogenesis during the process of decidualization is less well characterized. To address this, we used whole-genome Illumina BeadChip analysis to compare the gene expression profiles in implantation segments of the uterus during decidualization on day 7.5 of pregnancy between wild-type and uNK cell-deficient (interleukin-15-knockout) mice. We found almost 300 differentially expressed genes and verified the differential expression of ~60 using quantitative RT-PCR. Notably, there was a lack of differential expression of genes involved in decidualization and angiogenesis and this was also verified by quantitative RT-PCR. Similar endothelial cell densities and proliferation indices were also found in the endometrium between the implantation site tissues of wild-type and knockout mice undergoing decidualization. Overall, the results of this study reveal that uNK cells likely do not play a major role in decidualization and accompanying angiogenesis during implantation. In addition, the study identifies a large number of genes whose expression in implantation-site uterine tissue during decidualization depends on interleukin-15 expression in mice.

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