The primate endometrium is characterized in pregnancy by a tissue-specific population of CD56bright natural killer (NK) cells. These cells are observed in human, rhesus, and other nonhuman primate decidua. However, other subsets of NK cells are present in the decidua and may play distinct roles in pregnancy. The purpose of this study was to define the surface marker phenotype of rhesus monkey decidual NK (dNK) cell subsets, and to address functional differences by profiling cytokine and chemokine secretion in contrast with decidual T cells and macrophages. Rhesus monkey decidual leukocytes were obtained from early pregnancy tissues, and were characterized by flow cytometry and multiplex assay of secreted factors. We concluded that the major NK cell population in rhesus early pregnancy decidua are CD56bright CD16 NKp30− decidual NK cells, with minor CD56dim and CD56neg dNK cells. Intracellular cytokine staining demonstrated that CD56dim and not CD56bright dNK cells are the primary interferon-gamma (IFNG) producers. In addition, the profile of other cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors secreted by these two dNK cell populations was generally similar, but distinct from that of peripheral blood NK cells. Finally, analysis of multiple pregnancies from eight dams revealed that the decidual immune cell profile is characteristic of an individual animal and is consistently maintained across successive pregnancies, suggesting that the uterine immune environment in pregnancy is carefully regulated in the rhesus monkey decidua.
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Vol. 86 • No. 1