Research ArticlePregnancy

PBX1 expression in uterine natural killer cells drives fetal growth

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Science Translational Medicine  01 Apr 2020:
Vol. 12, Issue 537, eaax1798
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aax1798

Natural killers’ gentler side

Numerous decidual natural killer cells are found at the maternal-fetal interface in the placenta during early pregnancy. Zhou et al. identified a transcription factor called PBX1, which is present in these natural killer cells and stimulates the production of growth-promoting factors, proteins needed for fetal growth and development. In pregnant mice, lack of functional PBX1 in decidual natural killer cells resulted in fetal growth restriction, which could be rescued by reintroducing wild-type PBX1. Human patients with a history of unexplained recurrent spontaneous abortion often had impaired activity of PBX1 in their decidual natural killer cells as well, offering a mechanistic explanation for their diagnosis.

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