Alterations of NK cell phenotype during pregnancy in multiple sclerosis


  • A. Wisgalla
  • C. Ramien
  • M. Streitz
  • S. Schlickeiser
  • A.R. Lupu
  • A. Diemert
  • E. Tolosa
  • P.C. Arck
  • J. Bellmann-Strobl
  • N. Siebert
  • C. Heesen
  • F. Paul
  • M.A. Friese
  • C. Infante-Duarte
  • S.M. Gold


  • Frontiers in Immunology


  • Front Immunol 13: 907994


  • In multiple sclerosis (MS), relapse rate is decreased by 70-80% in the third trimester of pregnancy. However, the underlying mechanisms driving this effect are poorly understood. Evidence suggests that CD56(bright) NK cell frequencies increase during pregnancy. Here, we analyze pregnancy-related NK cell shifts in a large longitudinal cohort of pregnant women with and without MS, and provide in-depth phenotyping of NK cells. In healthy pregnancy and pregnancy in MS, peripheral blood NK cells showed significant frequency shifts, notably an increase of CD56(bright) NK cells and a decrease of CD56(dim) NK cells toward the third trimester, indicating a general rather than an MS-specific phenomenon of pregnancy. Additional follow-ups in women with MS showed a reversal of NK cell changes postpartum. Moreover, high-dimensional profiling revealed a specific CD56(bright) subset with receptor expression related to cytotoxicity and cell activity (e.g., CD16(+) NKp46(high) NKG2D(high) NKG2A(high) phenotype) that may drive the expansion of CD56(bright) NK cells during pregnancy in MS. Our data confirm that pregnancy promotes pronounced shifts of NK cells toward the regulatory CD56(bright) population. Although exploratory results on in-depth CD56(bright) phenotype need to be confirmed in larger studies, our findings suggest an increased regulatory NK activity, thereby potentially contributing to disease amelioration of MS during pregnancy.