Mucosal immunity in the human female reproductive tract: cytotoxic T lymphocyte function in the cervix and vagina of premenopausal and postmenopausal women

Am J Reprod Immunol. 1997 Jan;37(1):30-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0897.1997.tb00190.x.


Problem: To investigate the mucosal immune system in the cervix and vagina of premenopausal women in terms of immune cells present and cytolytic capacity of mucosal CD3+ T cells in the lower reproductive tract.

Methods: Fresh tissue fragments prepared by vibratome sectioning were analyzed for the presence of cells by confocal scanning laser microscopy (CSLM). Isolated reproductive tract cells prepared by enzymatic were analyzed for CD3+ T cell phenotype by FACS analysis and for cytolytic function by an anti-CD3 mAb mediated redirected lysis assay.

Results: As determined by CSLM, CD3+ cells as well as macrophages and dendritic cells are distributed throughout the lower female reproductive tract in both the epithelium and subepithelial mucosa. It was found that cervical and vaginal tissues from pre- and post-menopausal women contain CD3+ T cells (CTL) that have cytolytic activity, when measured in an antigen non-specific anti-CD3 mAb mediated redirected lysis assay.

Conclusions: These results indicate that the lower reproductive tract of women is immuno-competent as judged by the presence of CD3, CD4, CD8, macrophage, and dendritic cells in the endocervix, ectocervix, and vagina of premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Further, these studies demonstrate that CD3+ T cells with cytolytic activity are present in the cervix and vagina during the proliferative and secretory phases of the menstrual cycle and following menopause.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • CD3 Complex / analysis
  • Cervix Uteri / immunology*
  • Cytotoxicity Tests, Immunologic
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Direct
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal*
  • Postmenopause / immunology*
  • Premenopause / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / classification
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Vagina / immunology*


  • CD3 Complex