Uterine Leukocyte Function and Dysfunction: A Hypothesis on the Impact of Endometriosis

Am J Reprod Immunol. 2016 Mar;75(3):411-7. doi: 10.1111/aji.12487. Epub 2016 Jan 19.


Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by the growth of endometrial glands and stroma outside of the uterus. The disease affects approximately 10-15% of women of reproductive age and presents with clinical symptoms of pelvic pain and infertility. Changes in the leukocyte populations within the ectopic tissue and eutopic endometrium have been reported, and data suggest these alterations contribute to the pathology and symptoms of the disease. In this review, we discussed differences when comparing uterine NK cells and regulatory T cells within the eutopic endometrium between patients with endometriosis and healthy patients, and how these differences relate to implantation failure and/or decreased clearance of menstrual tissue in patients with the disease. The data demonstrate a critical need to examine endometrium and menstrual tissue in patients with endometriosis excluded from studies examining unknown causes of infertility and heavy menstrual bleeding. The information gathered from excluded patients will further enhance our understanding of how the immune system contributes to the pathophysiology of endometriosis and help to identify biomarkers for patients at higher risk for developing endometriosis-associated infertility.

Keywords: Endometriosis; NK cells; implantation failure; menstruation; regulatory T cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endometriosis / immunology*
  • Endometriosis / pathology
  • Endometrium / immunology*
  • Endometrium / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / immunology*
  • Infertility, Female / pathology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / pathology
  • Pelvic Pain / immunology
  • Pelvic Pain / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology