skip to content

Cambridge Immunology Network



Our lab studies the complex interactions between NK cell receptors and molecules expressed on fetal placental cells that invade into the womb during pregnancy and cancerous cells, mostly from ovarian cancer. 

Group members

Delia Hawkes - research assistant

Salvatore Valenti - lab manager

Evgeniya Shmeleva - research associate

Elin Bernson - research associate

Delphine Depierreux - research associate

Jyothi Jayaraman - graduate student

Emily Seshadri - masters student


Key publications: 

Huhn, O, Ivarsson M, Gardner L, Hollinshead H, Stinchcombe JC, Chen P , Shreeve S, Chazara O, Farrell LE, Theorell J, Ghadially H, Parham P , Griffiths G, Amir Horowitz A, Moffett A, Sharkey AM, Colucci F . Distinctive phenotypes and functions of innate lymphoid cells in human decidua during early pregnancy. Nature Communications 2020; 11(1):381 - *Selected as one of the most exciting Immunology 2020 papers by Nature Communication


Colucci F. The immunological code of pregnancy. Science. 2019; 365:862-863


Filipovic I, Chiossone L, Vacca P, Hamilton RS, Ingegnere T, Doisne JM, Hawkes DA, Mingari MC, Sharkey AM, Moretta L, Colucci F. Molecular definition of group 1 innate lymphoid cells in the mouse uterus. Nature Communications. 2018 Oct 29;9(1):4492. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06918-3


Huhn O, Chazara O, Ivarsson MA, Retière C, Venkatesan TC, Norman PJ, Hilton HG, Jayaraman J, Traherne JA, Trowsdale J, Ito M, Kling C, Parham P, Ghadially H, Moffett A, Sharkey AM, Colucci F. High-Resolution Genetic and Phenotypic Analysis of KIR2DL1 Alleles and Their Association with Pre-Eclampsia. Journal of Immunology. 2018 Nov 1;201(9):2593-2601


Flint TR, Jones JO, Ferrer M, Colucci F, Janowitz T. A comparative analysis of immune privilege in pregnancy and cancer in the context of checkpoint blockade immunotherapy. Semin Oncol. 2018 Mar 26. pii: S0093-7754(18)30067-8. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2018.03.005


Woods L, Perez-Garcia V, Kieckbusch J, Wang X, DeMayo F, Colucci F, and Hemberger M. Decidualisation and placentation defects are a major cause of age-related reproductive decline. Nature Communications 2017. Sep 5;8(1):352


Gaynor LM, Colucci F. Uterine Natural Killer Cells: Functional Distinctions and Influence on Pregnancy in Humans and Mice. Frontiers in Immunology 2017;8:467


Colucci F. Imagine a world without borders: an immunologist's thoughts on Brexit. EMBO Rep. 2016;17(9):1241


Kennedy PR, Chazara O, Gardner L, Ivarsson MA, Farrell LE, Xiong S, Hiby SE, Colucci F, Sharkey AM, Moffett A. Activating KIR2DS4 Is Expressed by Uterine NK Cells and Contributes to Successful Pregnancy. Journal of Immunology. 2016;197:4292-4300


Boulenouar S, Doisne JM, Sferruzzi-Perri A, Gaynor LM, Kieckbusch J, Balmas E, Yung HW, Javadzadeh S, Volmer L, Hawkes DA, Phillips K, Brady HJ, Fowden AL, Burton GJ, Moffett A, and Colucci F. The Residual Innate Lymphoid Cells in NFIL3-Deficient Mice Support Suboptimal Maternal Adaptations to Pregnancy. Frontiers in Immunology. 2016; 19;7:43.


Sottile R, Pangigadde PN, Tan T, Anichini A, Sabbatino F, Trecroci F, Favoino E, Orgiano L, Roberts J, Ferrone S, Kärre K, Colucci F*, and Carbone E*. (*equal contribution). HLA class I downregulation is associated with enhanced NK-cell killing of melanoma cells with acquired drug resistance to BRAF inhibitors. European Journal of Immunology. 2016;46(2):409-19


Kieckbusch J, Balmas E, Hawkes DA, and Colucci F. Disrupted PI3K p110d signaling sysregulates maternal immune cells and increases fetal mortality in mice. Cell Reports. 2015. 13:2817-28


Kieckbusch J, Gaynor LM, and Colucci F. Assessment of Maternal Vascular Remodeling During Pregnancy in the Mouse Uterus. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 2015 Dec 5;(106):e53534


Doisne JM, Balmas E, Boulenouar S, Gaynor LM, Kieckbusch J, Gardner L, Hawkes DA, Barbara CF, Sharkey AM, Brady HJ, Brosens JJ, Moffett A, and Colucci F. Composition, Development, and Function of Uterine Innate Lymphoid Cells. Journal of Immunology. 2015. 195(8):3937-45


Sharkey AM, Xiong S, Kennedy PR, Gardner L, Farrell LE, Chazara O, Ivarsson MA, Hiby SE, Colucci F, and Moffett A. Tissue-Specific Education of Decidual NK Cells. Journal of Immunology. 2015. 195(7):3026-32


Nakimuli A, Chazara O, Hiby SE, Farrell L, Tukwasibwe S, Jayaraman J, Traherne JA, Trowsdale J, Colucci F, Lougee E, Vaughan RW, Elliott AM, Byamugisha J, Kaleebu P, Mirembe F, Nemat-Gorgani N, Parham P, Norman PJ, Moffett A. A KIR B centromeric region present in Africans but not Europeans protects pregnant women from pre-eclampsia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2015;112(3):845-50.


Huber CM, Doisne JM, and Colucci F. IL-12/15/18-preactivated NK cells suppress GvHD in a mouse model of mismatched hematopoietic cell transplantation. European Journal of Immunology. 2015;45(6):1727-35.


Doisne JM, Huber CM, Okkenhaug K, and Colucci F. Immunomodulation of Selective Naive T Cell Functions by p110delta Inactivation Improves the Outcome of Mismatched Cell Transplantation. Cell Reports. 2015. pii: S2211-1247


Moffett A, and Colucci F. Co-evolution of NK receptors and HLA ligands in humans is driven by reproduction.  Immunological Reviews. 2015;267(1):283-97.



Colucci F, and Kieckbusch J. Maternal uterine natural killer cells nurture fetal growth: in medio stat virtus. Trends in Molecular Medicine. 2015;21(2):60-67


Moffett A, and Colucci F. Uterine NK cells: active regulators at the maternal-fetal interface. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2014;124(5):1872-9.


Kieckbusch J, Gaynor LM, Moffett A, and Colucci F. MHC-dependent inhibition of uterine NK cells impedes fetal growth and decidual vascular remodelling. Nature Communications. 2014;5:3359.

Other publications: 

Complete list of publications is found at :



Dr Francesco  Colucci
Takes PhD students
Available for consultancy


Departments and institutes: 


Uterine NK cells are the most abundant leukocytes at the maternal-fetal interface (left). NK cells are spontaneously cytotoxic to tumour and virally infected cells (right).