Over one-fifth of North American women of childbearing age are obese, putting these women at risk for a variety of detrimental chronic diseases. In addition, obesity increases the risk for developing major complications during pregnancy. The mechanisms by which obesity contributes to pregnancy complications and loss remain unknown. Increasing evidence indicates that obesity results in major changes to adipose tissue immune cell composition and function; whether or not obesity also affects immune function in the uterus has not been explored. Here we investigated the effect of obesity on uterine natural killer (uNK) cells, which are essential for uterine artery remodeling and placental development. Using a cohort of obese or lean women, we found that obesity led to a significant reduction in uNK cell numbers accompanied with impaired uterine artery remodeling. uNK cells isolated from obese women had altered expression of genes and pathways associated with extracellular matrix remodeling and growth factor signaling. Specifically, uNK cells were hyper-responsive to PDGF, resulting in overexpression of decorin. Functionally, decorin strongly inhibited placental development by limiting trophoblast survival. Together, these findings establish a potentially new link between obesity and poor pregnancy outcomes, and indicate that obesity-driven changes to uterine-resident immune cells critically impair placental development.
Sofie Perdu, Barbara Castellana, Yoona Kim, Kathy Chan, Lauren DeLuca, Alexander G. Beristain
Maternal obesity instructs gene expression-informed uterine NK (uNK) cell clustering.