Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

‘Natural Killer’ immune cells reveal factors for reproductive success

04.11.2008
Immune cells known as natural killer (NK) cells are linked with pregnancy problems including pre-eclampsia and recurrent miscarriage.

Collaborative research between scientists at the Babraham Institute and Centre for Trophoblast Research in Cambridge is illuminating the role that pregnancy-related NK cells play in moderating the biochemical interactions at the boundary between maternal tissues and the developing foetus.

Their findings, reported in November’s Journal of Immunology, reveal that uterine NK cells are ‘armed’ with specific receptors, enabling interaction with other molecules to ensure that the placenta develops normally and the pregnancy is successful.

Natural Killer (NK) cells, a type of white blood cell, defend us from tumours, viruses and other potential dangers. They sense their environment through a repertoire of surface proteins (receptors), which detect other immune molecules, those belonging to the Major Histocompatability Complex (MHC). This allows NK cells to distinguish ‘friend from foe’ and attack cells that have either lost self-MHC molecules or express a different set of MHC molecules.

A specialised set of NK cells accumulates in the uterus during each menstrual cycle and, if a fertilised embryo implants, their numbers rapidly swell at the maternal-foetal boundary. The role of these cells in pregnancy is enigmatic. Instead of the killing function normally associated with NK cells, in the uterus NK cells work in a different way; they are thought to make factors known as cytokines, which help to modify the maternal arteries supplying the developing foetus with the necessary blood, nutrients and oxygen. These dramatic tissue changes must be orchestrated in the context of the genetic diversity between the maternal immune cells and the paternal genes expressed on the developing placenta. Hostile interactions between maternal uterine NK cells and paternal MHC molecules are associated with an increased likelihood of abnormal pregnancies and recurrent miscarriage. However, the receptors enabling uterine NK cells to interact with MHC are only recently being uncovered. It is also unclear how maternal immune cells recognise paternal molecules in the unique micro-environment of the developing placenta, preventing an attack being mounted.

The Cambridge collaborators have identified the repertoire of activating and inhibitory receptors present on uterine NK cells and demonstrated that they are different from blood NK cells in terms of their adhesion, activation and MHC recognition capabilities.

“Not enough is known about these unique cells and their important role in pregnancy,” said Hakim Yadi, lead author and PhD student at the Babraham Institute. “This unprecedented and in-depth analysis of uterine killer cells is the necessary groundwork upon which we can build new knowledge. This will aid us in determining the factors that regulate reproductive success”.

The team’s analysis also revealed that uterine NK cells can be separated in two previously unappreciated subsets, opening up new questions related to their origin and functions, insights that will further understanding of the unique role of immune cells at the maternal-foetal interface.

This research was supported by the BBSRC, through a Babraham Institute Synergy Award to Drs. Francesco Colucci and Myriam Hemberger, an MRC Project Grant to Francesco Colucci and by the recently established Centre for Trophoblast Research at the University of Cambridge.

Claire Cockcroft | alfa
Further information:
http://www.babraham.ac.uk
http://www.trophoblast.cam.ac.uk/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections
25.09.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

25.09.2017 | Trade Fair News

Highest-energy cosmic rays have extragalactic origin

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>