A paper in Nature Communications by Iva Filipovic in Dr Francesco Colucci’s group, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, uses mouse models to understand uterine lymphocytes. The uterus of humans and mice is home to many immune cells, including natural killer (NK) and other innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), which may play important roles in pregnancy. The uterine mucosa dynamically adapts to both the menstrual cycle and pregnancy and therefore it is particularly hard to study.
The paper implicates tissue-resident NK cells as a hub for crosstalk with both maternal and fetal cells in the mouse uterus. The study was done in collaboration with Russell Hamilton of the Centre for Trophoblast Research and two groups in Genoa and Rome. Using RNA-sequencing data, Filipovic and collaborators provide the first molecular atlas of uterine NK cells and related ILCs at mid-gestation. They also identify key stages in reproductive life when these cells may play different roles, including perhaps ‘memory’ of previous pregnancies.
Dr Francesco Colucci, the senior author of the paper said: ‘This is a useful resource for future studies in reproductive immunology. Ultimately, we want to understand how maternal immune cells regulate placentation and use this knowledge to develop approaches for predicting and treating disorders of pregnancy.’