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J Immunol. 2013 Apr 15;190(8):3939-48. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1202582. Epub 2013 Mar 13.

Conversion of peripheral blood NK cells to a decidual NK-like phenotype by a cocktail of defined factors.

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Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


NK cells that populate the decidua are important regulators of normal placentation. In contrast to peripheral blood NK cells, decidual NK (dNK) cells lack cytotoxicity, secrete proangiogenic factors, and regulate trophoblast invasion. In this study we show that exposure to a combination of hypoxia, TGF-β1, and a demethylating agent results in NK cells that express killer cell Ig-like receptors, the dNK cell markers CD9 and CD49a, and a dNK pattern of chemokine receptors. These cells secrete vascular endothelial growth factor (a potent proangiogenic molecule), display reduced cytotoxicity, and promote invasion of human trophoblast cell lines. These findings have potential therapeutic applications for placental disorders associated with altered NK cell biology.

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