The pregnant uterus of humans and rodents contains a population of granulated lymphoid cells, which, in the mouse, are called granular metrial gland (GMG) cells and have been described to express high levels of perforin. Since there is evidence for cytolytic activity of these cells and since perforin is a crucial effector molecule for the lytic action of cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells, we evaluated the function of perforin in the pregnant uterus by using perforin-deficient mice. Perforin-deficient female mice were found to reproduce as efficiently as normal control females when bred either with syngeneic or allogeneic males. However, perforin-deficient mice differed from normal mice in that the frequency of GMG cells was significantly higher within maternal blood spaces and within several compartments of the feto-maternal interface. Proliferating GMG cells, identified by [3H] thymidine incorporation, were observed during more advanced stages of pregnancy when compared to normal controls. In contrast to normal mice, perforin-deficient mice did not display GMG cells attached to degenerating trophoblasts; instead perforin-deficient GMG cells were often observed in association with small maternal lymphocytes. In addition, the lack of transmission of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus from infected pregnant perforin-deficient mice to the fetuses argued against a role of perforin expression by GMG cells in prevention of virus transmission from the mother to the fetus. Our data indicate that functional perforin is not necessary for successful pregnancies. The morphological changes in the pregnant uterus of perforin-deficient mice might, however, point to a certain, as-yet undefined function of perforin in the uterus of pregnant normal mice, which is functionally compensated in perforin-deficient mice.