Activating KIR2DS4 is expressed by uterine NK cells and contributes to successful pregnancy

Philippa R. Kennedy, Olympe Chazara, Lucy Gardner, Martin A. Ivarsson, Lydia E. Farrell, Shiqiu Xiong, Susan E. Hiby, Francesco Colucci, Andrew M. Sharkey, Ashley Moffett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tissue-specific NK cells are abundant in the pregnant uterus and interact with invading placental trophoblast cells that transform the maternal arteries to increase the fetoplacental blood supply. Genetic case-control studies have implicated killer cell Ig-like receptor (KIR) genes and their HLA ligands in pregnancy disorders characterized by failure of trophoblast arterial transformation. Activating KIR2DS1 or KIR2DS5 (when located in the centromeric region as in Africans) lower the risk of disorders when there is a fetal HLA-C allele carrying a C2 epitope. In this study, we investigated another activating KIR, KIR2DS4, and provide genetic evidence for a similar effect when carried with KIR2DS1. KIR2DS4 is expressed by ~45% of uterine NK (uNK) cells. Similarly to KIR2DS1, triggering of KIR2DS4 on uNK cells led to secretion of GM-CSF and other chemokines, known to promote placental trophoblast invasion. Additionally, XCL1 and CCL1, identified in a screen of 120 different cytokines, were consistently secreted upon activation of KIR2DS4 on uNK cells. Inhibitory KIR2DL5A, carried in linkage disequilibrium with KIR2DS1, is expressed by peripheral blood NK cells but not by uNK cells, highlighting the unique phenotype of uNK cells compared with peripheral blood NK cells. That KIR2DS4, KIR2DS1, and some alleles of KIR2DS5 contribute to successful pregnancy suggests that activation of uNK cells by KIR binding to HLA-C is a generic mechanism promoting trophoblast invasion into the decidua.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4292-4300
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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