Endometrial lymphocytes were studied at all stages throughout the menstrual cycle and early pregnancy by flow cytometry to examine different lymphocyte subpopulations and the expression of the T- and NK-cell activation markers. After pregnancy, CD8 + CD3 + lymphocytes were decreased in the decidua. In both endometrium and decidua, more T cells expressed CD69, CD71, HLA-DR, and CD38 antigens than in peripheral blood. After pregnancy, CD71 + CD3 + lymphocytes were further increased. CD25 + CD3 + lymphocytes decreased significantly in the endometrium and decidua of ectopic pregnancies, but not in the decidua of normal pregnancies. These findings indicate that T cells are regionally activated in the first trimester, and it may be the result of the stimulation by fetal antigens. NK cells were the most abundant cell type in the decidua, which expressed the phenotype CD16 CD56 + , and CD57 CD56 + . The proportion of activated decidual NK cells was increased in anembryonic pregnancies more than in normal pregnancies, although the total NK subpopulation was similar in both groups. This might result in increased NK cytotoxicity in anembryonic pregnancies. In conclusion, T cells are activated, but NK cytotoxicity is decreased in the decidua of early normal pregnancies. This might be important in the control of trophoblast growth and placental development.
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