Natural killer cells promote immune tolerance by regulating inflammatory TH17 cells at the human maternal-fetal interface

Binqing Fu, Xianchang Li, Rui Sun, Xianhong Tong, Bin Ling, Zhigang Tian, Haiming Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


Natural killer (NK) cells accumulate at the maternal-fetal interface in large numbers, but their exact roles in successful pregnancy remain poorly defined. Here, we provide evidence that TH17 cells and local inflammation can occur at the maternal-fetal interface during natural allogenic pregnancies. We found that decidual NK cells promote immune tolerance and successful pregnancy by dampening inflammatory TH17 cells via IFN-γ secreted by the CD56brightCD27+ NK subset. This NK-cell-mediated regulatory response is lost in patients who experience recurrent spontaneous abortions, which results in a prominent TH17 response and extensive local inflammation. This local in flammatory response further affects the regulatory function of NK cells, leading to the eventual loss of maternal-fetal tolerance. Thus, our data identify NK cells as key regulatory cells at the maternal-fetal interface by suppressing T H17-mediated local inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E231-E240
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 15 2013


  • Fetomaternal tolerance
  • Regulatory NK cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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