Phenotypic analysis and proliferative responses of human endometrial granulated lymphocytes during the menstrual cycle

Biol Reprod. 1999 Apr;60(4):871-8. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod60.4.871.


The in vivo function of the unusual population of CD56+ CD16- endometrial granulated lymphocytes (eGLs) in human endometrium is unknown; their increased numbers in the secretory phase of the menstrual cycle suggests that they may play a role in the immunobiology of nonpregnant endometrium. In the present study, the phenotype and proliferative responses of eGLs at various phases of the menstrual cycle were compared with those in early pregnancy. Endometrial GLs were highly purified (> 98% CD56+) using immunomagnetic separation, and the expression of cell surface antigens was examined in smears using a double immunohistochemical labeling technique. Proliferative responses to mitogens and interleukin 2 (IL-2) were assessed in hanging drops in 60-well Terasaki plates. There was low to no expression of CD3, CD8, CD16, HML-1, L-selectin, and CD25 (IL-2 receptor alpha) on CD56+ cells isolated from nonpregnant and pregnant endometrium. The expression of CD2, CD49a, and CD122 (IL-2 receptor beta, IL-2Rbeta), however, increased from the proliferative to the late secretory phase of the menstrual cycle. In contrast, CD11a, CD69, and CD49d expression was high and did not vary with menstrual cycle phase; CD49d levels were significantly reduced in early pregnancy. Unlike early-pregnancy eGLs, none of the CD56+ eGL cultures throughout the menstrual cycle displayed phytohaemagglutinin (PHA)-induced lymphoproliferation. In contrast, eGLs from nonpregnant endometrium in the presence of 5 or 100 U/ml IL-2 after 48- and 120-h incubation showed significant proliferative responses, as did eGL cultures from early pregnancy. A significantly reduced number of proliferative phase eGL cultures proliferated in response to IL-2 compared to secretory phase and early-pregnancy eGL cultures. The IL-2-induced proliferative responses of CD56+ eGLs were associated with increased IL-2Rbeta (CD122) expression. These findings demonstrate 1) differential eGL expression of CD2, CD49a, and CD122 during the menstrual cycle; 2) differential IL-2-induced eGL proliferative responses during the menstrual cycle; and 3) differences between eGLs from nonpregnant and pregnant endometrium in CD49d expression and their ability to respond to PHA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • CD56 Antigen / analysis
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / analysis
  • Cell Division*
  • Cell Separation
  • Endometrium / cytology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping*
  • Interleukin-2 / pharmacology
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Menstrual Cycle*
  • Mitogens / pharmacology
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, IgG / analysis


  • Antigens, CD
  • CD56 Antigen
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Interleukin-2
  • Mitogens
  • Receptors, IgG