PROBLEM: The tissues of the human female reproductive tract (Fallopian tube, uterus, cervix, and vagina) may play different roles in the provision of mucosal immunity. The purpose of this study was to develop a uniform method suitable for quantitative comparison of the leukocytes from all these tissues.
METHOD OF STUDY: Tissues, typically 0.5-1.0 g, were dispersed by enzyme treatment. A flow cytometric gating procedure based on CD45-positivity and low far-red autofluorescence permitted unfractionated, freshly dispersed cells to be phenotyped with respect to T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, macrophages, and granulocytes.
RESULTS: Reproductive tract tissues contain leukocytes that represent approximately 6–20% of the total number of cells, with the Fallopian tubes and uterus containing a higher proportion of leukocytes than the cervix and vagina. The uterine endometrium from postmenopausal women has fewer leukocytes than does uterine endometrium from pre-menopausal women. T lymphocytes are a major constituent (30–60%) of leukocytes from all tissues. The Fallopian tube contains granulocytes as another major constituent; granulocytes are significantly less numerous in the other tissues. All tissues contain B lymphocytes and macrophages as clearly detectable but minor components.
CONCLUSIONS: Three-color flow cytometry is an appropriate method for quantitative comparison of leukocytes from the different tissues of the female reproductive tract, during all phases of the menstrual cycle and within post-menopausal samples. Results indicate that the tissues differ from each other, particularly with respect to the large number of granulocytes in the Fallopian tubes.