Do Endometrial Natural Killer and Regulatory T Cells Differ in Infertile and Clinical Pregnancy Patients? An Analysis in Patients Undergoing Frozen Embryo Transfer Cycles

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American Journal of Reproductive Immunology


Problem: Clinical significance of endometrial and peripheral blood natural killer (NK) and regulatory T cells (Tregs) during frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycles has not been well characterized. Design: Retrospective cohort study. Method of Study: Endometrial tissue was collected from infertility patients prior to a frozen embryo transfer cycle as part of an endometrial receptivity analysis (ERA®) biopsy or endometrial scratch test. Uterine NK (uNK) and Treg cell density was compared based on pregnancy status in the subsequent frozen embryo transfer cycle. Peripheral blood was also collected from a separate cohort of patients undergoing frozen embryo transfer. Treg cell density was compared by the presence or the absence of a clinical pregnancy in each phase of the cycle. Results: In the 33 luteal phase biopsies there were more endometrial Tregs, similar uNK and a trend toward lower CD16+ uNK cells in women with a future ongoing clinical pregnancy compared to non-pregnant women. There were no differences in uNK and Treg density in natural scratch cycles vs programmed cycles or in non-receptive vs receptive endometrium (ERA® cycles). In the peripheral blood analysis, the pregnant group had higher peripheral blood Tregs on the day of serum β-hCG time point when compared to the non-pregnant group. Conclusion: Higher levels of endometrial Tregs and lower levels of CD16+ uNK cells are positive prognostic factors for infertile women prior to frozen embryo transfer. Our work on phenotypic and proportional analyses of endometrial immune cells may complement the ERA® in predicting improved pregnancy rates in patients with implantation failure.

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American Society for Reproductive Immunology; Wiley