Studies of natural killer cells in pregnancy-induced hypertension.
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The number and activity of natural killer (NK) cells were studied in 20 patients with pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), 15 uncomplicated pregnant women and 16 healthy non-pregnant women. All the pregnant women were primigravidae and were evaluated during the third trimester of gestation. Peripheral blood NK cells were detected with monoclonal antibodies by indirect immunofluorescence and cytotoxic activity was measured using a single-cell assay against K562 target cells. Hypertensive pregnant women had an increased number of circulating NK cells associated with a significant decrease of NK activity. The cytotoxic activity was significantly lower in normal pregnant and PIH women when compared with non-pregnant controls. The onset of immature NK cells in peripheral blood and the impairment of their cytotoxic activity in PIH patients may be associated with hormones and immunosuppressive substances produced by tissues occurring at the maternal-fetal interface.
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