First Trimester Pregnancy Decidual Natural Killer Cells Contain and Spontaneously Release High Quantities of Granulysin


Daniel Rukavina, Department of Physiology and Immunology, Medical Faculty, University of Rijeka, Brace Branchetta 20, Rijeka 51 000, Croatia.


Citation Veljkovic Vujaklija D, Gulic T, Sucic S, Nagata K, Ogawa K, Laskarin G, Saito S, Haller H, Rukavina D. First trimester pregnancy decidual natural killer cells contain and spontaneously release high quantities of granulysin. Am J Reprod Immunol 2011; 66: 363–372

Problem  Granulysin (GNLY) is a novel cytolytic protein lytic against a variety of tumor cells and microbes. The role of GNLY during pregnancy has not been extensively explored. The aim of this study is to examine GNLY expression and distribution in the first trimester pregnancy peripheral blood (PB) and decidua, the ability of decidual and PB natural killer (NK) cells to secrete GNLY spontaneously, and the role of antigen-presenting cells (APC) in the regulation of GNLY expression in decidual NK cells.

Method of study  GNLY expression was analyzed using cell permeabilization method, flow cytometry, and immunohistochemistry. GNLY secretion by purified NK cells was detected by ELISA method.

Results  GNLY is abundantly expressed at the maternal–fetal interface in the first trimester pregnancy. Decidual T lymphocytes express significantly higher levels of GNLY (58%) then PB T lymphocytes (11%). Over 85% of decidual CD56+ cells express GNLY and when cultured spontaneously release high quantities of GNLY. Decidual APC participate in the control of GNLY expression in CD56+ cells.

Conclusion  Abundant expression of GNLY in the decidual immunocompetent cells and the capacity of decidual CD56+ cells to spontaneously secrete high quantities of GNLY point to important protective and immunomodulatory role that this molecule could play at the maternal–fetal interface.