Natural killer (NK) cells are members of a rapidly expanding family of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs). While most previously studied NK cells were derived from the mouse spleen and circulate in the blood, recently others and we found tissue-resident NK (trNK) cells in many tissues that resemble group 1 ILCs (ILC1s). During pregnancy, NK cells are the most abundant lymphocytes in the uterus at the maternal-fetal interface and are involved in placental vascular remodeling. Prior studies suggested that these uterine NK (uNK) cells are mostly derived from circulating NK cells. However, the murine virgin uterus contains mostly trNK cells and it has been challenging to determine their contribution to uNK cells in pregnancy as well as other potential function(s) of uNK cells due to the dynamic microenvironment in the pregnant uterus. This review focuses on the origins and functions of the heterogeneous populations of uNK cells during the course of murine pregnancy.
- Conventional natural killer cells
- Maternal-fetal interface
- Tissue-resident natural killer cells
- Uterine innate lymphoid cells
- Uterine natural killer cells