Interferon gamma (IFNG) is a proinflammatory cytokine secreted in the uterus during early pregnancy. It is abundantly produced by uterine natural killer cells in maternal endometrium but also by trophoblasts in some species. In normal pregnancies of mice, IFNG plays critical roles that include initiation of endometrial vasculature remodeling, angiogenesis at implantation sites, and maintenance of the decidual (maternal) component of the placenta. In livestock and in humans, deviations in these processes are thought to contribute to serious gestational complications, such as fetal loss or preeclampsia. Interferon gamma has broader roles in activation of innate and adaptive immune responses to viruses and tumors, in part through upregulating transcription of genes involved in cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, and antigen processing/presentation. Despite this, rodent and human trophoblast cells show dampened responses to IFNG that reflect the resistance of these cells to IFNG-mediated activation of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II transplantation antigen expression. Lack of MHC class II antigens on trophoblasts is thought to facilitate survival of the semiallogeneic conceptus in the presence of maternal lymphocytes. This review describes the dynamic roles of IFNG in successful pregnancy and briefly summarizes data on IFNG in gestational pathologies.
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Vol. 80 • No. 5