Like the endometrial stroma, the decidua contains lymphoreticular cells, and these are probably involved in immunological interactions between the conceptus and the mother. Lymphoreticular cells in decidual tissue obtained from 12 patients undergoing therapeutic abortion of an intact pregnancy at 6–10 weeks’ gestation were investigated in this study. Immunophenotyping with a broad panel of monoclonal antibodies revealed various subpopulations of lymphoreticular cells. Macrophages (Ki-M6+, Ki-M7+, Ki-M8+, KP1+, MAC 387+ and Ki-M1P+) represented the largest fraction of intradecidual lymphoreticular cells. CD3+ and CD8+ lymphocytes were found in moderate numbers and CD4+ cells in small numbers. The majority of the intradecidual lymphoid cells exhibited an unusual phenotype [CD7+, CD2+, CD56+, triple negative (CD3––, CD4––, CD8––)]. The distribution of these unusual lymphocytes mirrored that of the so-called endometrial stromal granulocytes. A few of these stromal granulocytes reacted with the macrophage-associated antibody KP1, but not with Ki-M1P, another macrophage marker. This was confirmed by immuno-electron microscopy. The finding that intradecidual CD3+ lymphocytes express neither the Α/Β nor the Γ/Δ heterodimer of the T cell antigen receptor was unexpected. However, these cells did express the Α/Β heterodimer after in vitro culture with PHA-P and recombinant exogenous interleukin-2. No stimulated T lymphocytes expressing activation antigens could be detected. B lymphocytes, T and B immune accessory cells and CD 15+ granulocytes were found only in small numbers or were absent. Amongst cells expressing NK cell markers, CD 5 7+ and CD 16+ cells were found in small to moderate numbers, while CD 5 6+ cells were detected in large numbers. The potential role of decidual stromal granulocytes in regulating the development of early human pregnancy is discussed.

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