Expression of angiogenic growth factors by uterine natural killer cells during early pregnancy

Gendie E Lash, Barbara Schiessl, Maureen Kirkley, Barbara A Innes, Alix Cooper, Roger F Searle, Stephen C Robson, Judith N Bulmer
Journal of Leukocyte Biology 2006, 80 (3): 572-80
Remodeling of uterine spiral arteries is critical for the continuation of a successful pregnancy. Uterine natural killer (uNK) cells are the predominant leukocyte population in the early pregnant decidua, and a role for these cells in spiral artery remodeling in pregnancy has been suggested. Angiogenic growth factors were measured in isolated uNK and total (unseparated) decidual cells (8-10 or 12-14 weeks gestation, n=5 each gestational age) after culture for 48 h. Angiopoietin (Ang)1, placental growth factor, transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-C were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Angiogenin, Ang2, fibroblast growth factor basic, intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1, keratinocyte growth factor (KGF), platelet-derived growth factor-BB, and VEGF-A were measured using a FASTQuant angiogenic growth factor multiplex protein assay. Levels of Ang2, ICAM-1, and KGF, secreted by the total decidual fraction, decreased with increasing gestational age. uNK levels of Ang2 and VEGF-C also decreased with increasing gestational age. At 8-10 weeks gestation, there was no difference in the level of Ang1, Ang2, TGF-beta1, and VEGF-C secreted by uNK cells and the total decidual fraction. At 12-14 weeks, uNK cells secreted significantly lower levels of VEGF-C than the total decidual fraction. Early pregnancy decidua is a major source of angiogenic growth factors whose levels decrease with increasing gestational age, suggesting that they may play a role in spiral artery remodeling. uNK cells appear to be a prominent source of Ang1, Ang2, TGF-beta1, and VEGF-C within the placental bed.

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