Studies of T cell-mediated immunity in the human female genital tract have been problematic due to difficulties associated with the collection of mucosal samples. Consequently, most studies rely on biopsies from the lower female genital tract or remnant tissue from hysterectomies. Availability of samples from healthy women is limited, as most studies are carried out in women with underlying pathologies. Menstruation is the cyclical sloughing off of endometrial tissue, and thus it should be a source of endometrial cells without the need for a biopsy. We isolated and phenotyped T cells from menstrual and peripheral blood and from endometrial biopsy-derived tissue from healthy women to determine the types of T cells present in this compartment. Our data demonstrated that T cells isolated from menstrual blood are a heterogeneous population of cells with markers reminiscent of blood and mucosal cells as well as unique phenotypes not represented in either compartment. T cells isolated from menstrual blood expressed increased levels of HLA-DR, αEβ7 and CXCR4 and reduced levels of CD62L relative to peripheral blood. Menstrual blood CD4+ T cells were enriched for cells expressing both CCR7 and CD45RA, markers identifying naïve T cells and were functional as determined by antigen-specific intracellular cytokine production assays. These data may open new avenues of investigation for cell mediated immune studies involving the female reproductive tract without the need for biopsies.
Sabbaj, S., Hel, Z., Richter, H. E., Mestecky, J., & Goepfert, P. A. (2011). Menstrual blood as a potential source of endometrial derived CD3+ T cells. PLoS ONE, 6(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0028894