Peritoneal natural killer cell chemotaxis is decreased in women with pelvic endometriosis

Am J Reprod Immunol. 2022 Sep;88(3):e13556. doi: 10.1111/aji.13556. Epub 2022 May 4.


Problem: NK cell and macrophage function are decreased in endometriosis, and the disease may involve reduced immune surveillance in the peritoneal cavity. NK cell cytotoxicity and migration ability (chemotaxis) are considered important; the former has been investigated, but the latter has not.

Method of study: We compared chemotaxis of immunocompetent cells (NK cells, macrophages, T cells) in peritoneal fluid obtained during laparoscopy in 27 women with and 13 without endometriosis. Peripheral blood NK cells were also obtained by the peripheral blood antibody beads method. Micro-cultured cells were examined by time-lapse photography, and the mean migration speed per cell was calculated as the chemotaxis. We investigated the relationship between chemotaxis and endometriosis.

Results: NK cell chemotaxis was significantly lower in the endometriosis group. Macrophages and lymphocytes were not significantly different between the groups. During menstruation, NK cell chemotaxis decreased in both groups. Postmenstrual chemotaxis was increased significantly in women without endometriosis but remained low in women with endometriosis. The Revised-American Society for Reproductive Medicine score was not correlated with chemotaxis; in women with endometriosis, chemotaxis was decreased even at early stages. Peripheral blood NK cells showed no significant differences.

Conclusions: In women with endometriosis, not only cytotoxicity but also chemotaxis by NK cells in peritoneal cavity is significantly decreased, and particularly chemotaxis is decreased throughout the menstrual cycle. Therefore, antigens in retrograde menstrual blood that enters the peritoneal cavity might be left unprocessed. Repetition of this immune process in the peritoneal cavity may lead to the onset and subsequent progression of endometriosis.

Keywords: chemotaxis; endometriosis; migration ability; natural killer cells; peritoneal cavity; retrograde menstruation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ascitic Fluid / metabolism
  • Chemotaxis
  • Endometriosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • Peritoneum / metabolism