Killer Ig-Like Receptor Expression in Uterine NK Cells Is Biased toward Recognition of HLA-C and Alters with Gestational Age

A.M. Sharkey, L. Gardner, S. Hiby, L. Farrell, R. Apps, L. Masters, J.P. Goodridge, Louise Lathbury, C.A. Stewart, S. Verma, A. Moffett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Immunogenetic studies suggest that interactions between maternal killer Ig-like receptor (KIR) expressed by uterine NK (uNK) cells, and fetal HLA-C molecules on trophoblast, influence the success of human placentation. However, the exact functional response of fresh uNK cells to trophoblast HLA-C molecules is unknown. In this study, we show by quantitative RT-PCR and FACS that both activating and inhibitory KIR specific for HLA-C are expressed at higher levels and on an increased proportion of NK cells in the human decidua compared with blood. In contrast, expression of KIR3DL1/S1, which is specific for HLA-B, is similar in both NK cell populations. Remarkably, there is also a temporal change in the expression pattern of HLA-C-specific KIR, with a decline in, both intensity of expression and frequency on uNK. cells throughout the first trimester of pregnancy. This selective up-regulation of KIR has functional consequences because uNK cells show increased binding of HLA-C tetramers compared with blood NK cells. Ab cross-linking shows that these KIR are functional and results in increased cytokine secretion. uNK cells, therefore, exhibit a unique KIR profile that enhances their ability to recognize trophoblast cells expressing HLA-C at the materno-fetal interface. This is the first report to demonstrate selective regulation of KIR expression over time in vivo in a normal physiological situation and suggests that KIR expression by uNK cells is regulated by the tissue microenvironment in the decidua.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-46
JournalJournal of Immunology
Volume181
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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