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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Uterine natural killer cells do not require interleukin-2 for their differentiation or maturation.

PROBLEM: Natural Killer lymphocytes (NK cells) from the pregnant uterus and from other tissues in pregnant and nonpregnant mammals can be stimulated by interleukin-2 (IL-2) during culture to become Lymphokine Activated Killer (LAK) cells. The susceptibility of cultured trophoblast cells to lysis by LAK cells raises the enigma of why uterine ( u) NK cells that are characterized by morphology and by surface phenotyping as "activated," and thus potentially damaging to the placenta, become localized to implantation sites during normal rodent gestation. METHOD: uNK cells migrating from explant cultures of the metrial gland were assessed for expression (mRNA and protein) of each chain of the IL-2 receptor (IL-2R). Implantation sites from transgenic mice lacking a functional IL-2 gene were examined histologically for the differentiation of mature, granulated uNK cells. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: Early post-implantation, mRNA from migrating uNK cells contains transcripts for all three chains of the IL-2R. Only IL-2Rgamma was expressed at day 12 of gestation; expression of this gene was also lost by day 16. Loss of IL-2R transcription did not result in loss of protein expression; however, it did coincide with loss of uNK cell viability in vivo. Apparently normal differentiation of uNK cells occurred in IL-2(-/-) mice and in doubly mutant IL-2(-/-).beta2m(-/-) mice. Thus, despite uNK cell expression of the full IL-2R at day 8 of gestation, IL-2 is not required for the maturation of uNK cells to their fully granulated form or for normal placental development.[1]


  1. Uterine natural killer cells do not require interleukin-2 for their differentiation or maturation. Croy, B.A., Guimond, M.J., Luross, J., Hahnel, A., Wang, B., van den Heuvel, M. Am. J. Reprod. Immunol. (1997) [Pubmed]
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