Analysis of uterine natural killer cells in mice.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) (2009-12-25)
B Anne Croy, Jianhong Zhang, Chandrakant Tayade, Francesco Colucci, Hakim Yadi, Aureo T Yamada

The term uterine natural killer (uNK) cell is applied in mice to an abundant but transient NK cell population that undergoes unique, terminal differentiation within embryo implantation sites during endometrial decidualization and pregnancy. In mice, decidualization is induced by attachment and implantation of hatched, blastocyst-stage embryos. Within each implantation site, uNK cells proliferate and rapidly differentiate into highly restricted regions called decidua basalis and the mesometrial lymphoid aggregate of pregnancy (MLAp). uNK cells begin to die within healthy decidua basalis by day 8 of the 19-20 day pregnancy of mice. By gestation day 12, uNK cell numbers have peaked and most uNK cells show in situ nuclear fragmentation indicative of disintegration. Morphological studies (standard histology, ultrastructure, immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, and RNA analyses from laser capture microdissected uNK cells) have provided most of the current understanding regarding this cell lineage. These approaches identified the special angiogenic properties of uNK cells and their regulatory relationships with normal physiological changes to the uterine (endometrial) arterial tree that accompany successful pregnancy. This chapter highlights key information needed for successful dissection of the dynamically changing decidua basalis that is enriched in uNK cells and special morphological procedures used for uNK cell study. Preparation of viable mouse uNK cell suspensions is difficult but can be achieved. This chapter includes techniques for isolation of uterine leukocyte suspensions and their enrichment for uNK cells that permit immediate downstream applications such as culture, isolation of high quality RNA, or flow cytometry.


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