During pregnancy, maternal decidual tissue interacts with fetal trophoblasts. They constitute the maternal-fetal interface responsible for supplying nutrition to the fetus. Uterine natural killer (uNK) cells are the most abundant immune cells at the maternal-fetal interface during early pregnancy and play critical roles throughout pregnancy. This review provides current knowledge about the functions of uNK cells. uNK cells have been shown to facilitate remodeling of the spiral artery, control the invasion of extravillous trophoblast (EVT) cells, contribute to the induction and maintenance of immune tolerance, protect against pathogen infection, and promote fetal development. Pregnancy-trained memory of uNK cells improves subsequent pregnancy outcomes. In addition, this review describes the distinct functions of three uNK cell subsets: CD27–CD11b–, CD27+, and CD27–CD11b+ uNK cells.
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Vol. 107 • No. 1