Interactions Between Natural Killer Cells, Cortisol and Prolactin in Malaria During Pregnancy
Elie Mavoungou, PhD
Elie Mavoungou, PhD, Medical Research Unit, Albert Schweitzer Hospital, Lambaréné, Gabon and Institute for Tropical Medicine, Department of Parasitology, University of Tübingen, Wilhelmstrasse 27, 72074, Tübingen, Germany
Natural killer cells derived from pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells are important cells of the immune system that have two main functions: a cytolytic activity and a cytokine-producing capacity. These functions are tightly regulated by numerous activating and inhibitory receptors, including newly discovered receptors that selectively trigger the cytolytic activity in a major histocompatibility complex independent manner. Based on their defining function of spontaneous cytotoxicity without prior immunization, natural killer (NK) cells have been thought to play a critical role in immune surveillance and cancer therapy. New insights into NK cell biology have suggested their major roles in the control of infections, particularly in Plasmodium falciparum infection and in fetal implantation. P. falciparum is the main protozoan parasite responsible for malaria causing 200–300 million clinical cases and killing over 3 million people each year. This review provides an update on NK cell function, ontogeny and biology in order to better understand the role of NK cells in pregnancy in regions where malaria is endemic. Understanding mechanisms of NK cell functions may lead to novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of human disease, in general, and particularly in the fight against malaria.
Keywords: Natural killer cells, Plasmodium falciparum, malaria, pregnancy
Source: Clin Med Res. vol 4(1) pp. 33–41, March 2006