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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2012, Article ID 180272, 8 pages
Review Article

Cell Death Mechanisms at the Maternal-Fetal Interface: Insights into the Role of Granulysin

1Department of Physiology and Immunology, Medical Faculty, University of Rijeka, 51000 Rijeka, Croatia
2Department of Radiology, Clinical Hospital Center Rijeka, 51000 Rijeka, Croatia
3Center for Physiology and Pharmacology, Institute of Pharmacology, Medical University Vienna, 1090 Vienna, Austria

Received 31 May 2011; Revised 12 July 2011; Accepted 12 July 2011

Academic Editor: Andres Salumets

Copyright © 2012 Danijela Veljkovic Vujaklija et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


During mammal pregnancy, a sensitive balance between hormones, cytokines, humoral factors, and local cellular interactions must be established. Cytotoxic cells infiltrating the decidua are heavily equipped with cytolytic molecules, in particular perforin and granulysin. Granulysin is especially abundant in NK cells which are able to spontaneously secrete high quantities of granulysin. Besides being a potent bactericidal and tumoricidal molecule, granulysin is also found to be a chemoattractant and a proinflammatory molecule. The precise role(s) of granulysin at the maternal-fetal interface has not been elucidated yet. It is possible that it behaves as a double-edged sword simultaneously acting as an immunomodulatory and a host defense molecule protecting both the mother and the fetus from a wide spectrum of pathogens, and on the other hand, in case of an NK cell activation, acting as an effector molecule causing the apoptosis of semiallograft trophoblast cells and consequently leading to various pregnancy disorders or pregnancy loss.