Natural Killer Cell Reduction and Uteroplacental Vasculopathy

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Abstract

Uterine natural killer cells are important for uteroplacental development and pregnancy maintenance. Their role in pregnancy disorders, such as preeclampsia, is unknown. We reduced the number of natural killer cells by administering rabbit anti-asialo GM1 antiserum in an established rat preeclamptic model (female human angiotensinogen×male human renin) and evaluated the effects at the end of pregnancy (day 21), compared with preeclamptic control rats receiving normal rabbit serum. In 100% of the antiserum-treated, preeclamptic rats (7/7), we observed highly degenerated vessel cross sections in the mesometrial triangle at the end of pregnancy. This maternal uterine vasculopathy was characterized by a total absence of nucleated/living cells in the vessel wall and perivascularly and prominent presence of fibrosis. Furthermore, there were no endovascular trophoblast cells within the vessel lumen. In the control, normal rabbit serum–treated, preeclamptic rats, only 20% (1/5) of the animals displayed such vasculopathy. We confirmed the results in healthy pregnant wild-type rats: after anti-asialo GM1 treatment, 67% of maternal rats displayed vasculopathy at the end of pregnancy compared with 0% in rabbit serum–treated control rats. This vasculopathy was associated with a significantly lower fetal weight in wild-type rats and deterioration of fetal brain/liver weight ratio in preeclamptic rats. Anti-asialo GM1 application had no influence on maternal hypertension and albuminuria during pregnancy. Our results show a new role of natural killer cells during hypertensive pregnancy in maintaining vascular integrity. In normotensive pregnancy, this integrity seems important for fetal growth.

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