Changes of NK Cells in Preeclampsia



Atsushi Fukui, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine, 5 Zaifu-cho, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8562, Japan.



The regulation of uterine and circulating peripheral blood natural killer (NK) cells has been associated with reproductive immunology such as recurrent pregnancy losses, implantation failures, or preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy characterized by increased blood pressure accompanied by proteinuria and is a major cause of maternal and fetal mortality. Natural cytotoxicity receptors (NCRs) are unique markers, which regulate NK cell cytotoxicity and cytokine production. The relation of NCRs to reproduction is not fully characterized yet. The different profile of NCRs expression may suggest presence of abnormal regulation of NK cell in women with reproductive failures. Pregnant women with preeclampsia carry immunological abnormalities of NCRs on peripheral blood NK cells during pregnancy. The lower expression of NKp46+NK cells in women with preeclampsia may account for the higher production of NK1 cytokine that is known as NK1 shift in pregnant women with preeclampsia. Evaluation of NKp46 on peripheral blood NK cells may be applicable to find the onset of preeclampsia. In this review, various expressions of NK cell surface markers including NCRs on NK cells, NK cell cytotoxicity, and production of cytokines and angiogenic factors by NK cells were reviewed in relation to preeclampsia.