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Maternal natural killer cells at the intersection between reproduction and mucosal immunity

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Shmeleva, Evgeniya V. 


Abstract: Many maternal immune cells populate the decidua, which is the mucosal lining of the uterus transformed during pregnancy. Here, abundant natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages help the uterine vasculature adapt to fetal demands for gas and nutrients, thereby supporting fetal growth. Fetal trophoblast cells budding off the forming placenta and invading deep into maternal tissues come into contact with these and other immune cells. Besides their homeostatic functions, decidual NK cells can respond to pathogens during infection, but in doing so, they may become conflicted between destroying the invader and sustaining fetoplacental growth. We review how maternal NK cells balance their double duty both in the local microenvironment of the uterus and systemically, during toxoplasmosis, influenza, cytomegalovirus, malaria and other infections that threat pregnancy. We also discuss recent developments in the understanding of NK-cell responses to SARS-Cov-2 infection and the possible dangers of COVID-19 during pregnancy.



Review Article, review-article

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Mucosal Immunology

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Nature Publishing Group US