Periovulatory increases in tissue homing potential of circulating CD56(bright) cells are associated with fertile menstrual cycles

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Jun;90(6):3606-13. doi: 10.1210/jc.2004-1902. Epub 2005 Mar 22.


CD56(bright) lymphocytes appear in the uterus 3-5 d after ovulation coincident with the onset of stromal cell decidualization. Although the source of these uterine immune cells is not defined, a subset of blood CD56(bright) cells exhibits enhanced capacity to adhere to decidual vascular endothelium during the periovulatory period of menstrual cycles. In this study, the effects of early pregnancy on the adhesive capacity of CD56(bright) cells to bind uterine substrates were examined in a time-course study of 18 infertile women undergoing natural cycles before transfer of frozen/thawed embryos and 18 infertile women undergoing controlled ovarian stimulation. There were three pregnancies in the natural cycle group and seven in the hormone-stimulated cohort. Hormone levels, and number and quality of transferred embryos were similar between pregnant and nonpregnant cycles. However, the adhesive function of CD56(bright) cells increased before ovulation in hormone-treated women who became pregnant and before embryo transfer in naturally cycling women who became pregnant. This pattern of incremental adhesion, which was less frequently observed in unsuccessful cycles, suggests a role for NK cells in implantation. These results support the idea that temporal control of NK cell homing to the uterine microenvironment is a prerequisite to pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, CD / blood
  • Antigens, CD / genetics
  • CD56 Antigen / blood
  • CD56 Antigen / genetics*
  • Embryo Transfer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / blood
  • Infertility, Female / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Menstrual Cycle / immunology*
  • Ovulation / immunology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome


  • Antigens, CD
  • CD56 Antigen