Role of uterine natural killer cells in angiogenesis of human decidua of the first-trimester pregnancy

GuoHua Li, Wei Huang, QingJie Xia, KaiXuan Yang, RaoFang Liu, HuiLi Zhu, Wei Jiang
Science in China. Series C, Life Sciences 2008, 51 (2): 111-9
Decidualization is accompanied by extensive angiogenesis, which is an essential step in the maturation of new blood vessels in mammalian pregnancy. The purpose of this study was to determine a distribution of uNK cells (CD56(+) uNK or CD56(bright) cells) in human decidua of the first-trimester pregnancy, and investigate whether uNK cells in human decidua could express vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF-A) and/or angiopoietin2 (Ang2). Our immunohistochemical staining results demonstrated that a great amount of uNK (CD56(+)) cells scattered throughout the decidual stroma and near endometrial gland and spiral vessels in human decidua. The protein expression of VEGF-A and Ang2 was detected in decidual stroma cells, capillary endothelial cells and glandular cells in tissue specimens. There was a positive correlation between microvessel density (MVD) and the number of the CD56-positive uNK cells in decidual stroma, and also between the number of the CD56-positive uNK cells and VEGF-A protein expression in the tissue. In addition, we found that uNK cells in human decidua could express VEGF-A mRNA, but not Ang2 mRNA, in isolated uNK cells in human decidua of the first-trimester gestation by combination of LCM and Nested-PCR. Our study indicated that uNK cells, through expressing VEGF-A, may play an important role in the angiogenic response at the time of human decidualization and early placenta development.

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