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BACKGROUND: Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) are circulating mononuclear cells that participate in angiogenesis. The aim of this study was to determine the influence of the menstrual cycle on the number and function of EPCs, and to investigate their relationship with circulating concentrations of sex steroids and inflammatory mediators. METHODS: Ten healthy nulliparous, premenopausal, non-smoking women with regular menses were studied over a single menstrual cycle. Venepuncture was performed in the menstrual, follicular, peri-ovulatory and luteal phases. EPCs were quantified by flow cytometry (CD133(+)CD34(+)KDR(+) phenotype) and the colony-forming unit (CFU-EPC) functional assay. Circulating concentrations of estradiol, progesterone and inflammatory mediators (TNF-alpha, IL-6, sICAM-1 and VEGF) were measured by immunoassays. RESULTS: The numbers of CD133(+)CD34(+)KDR(+) cells were higher in the follicular phase (0.99 +/- 0.3 x 10(6) cells/l) compared with the peri-ovulatory phase (0.29 +/- 0.1 x 10(6) cells/l; P < 0.05). In contrast, the numbers of CFU-EPCs did not vary over the menstrual cycle. There were no correlations between EPCs and concentrations of either circulating sex steroids or inflammatory mediators. CONCLUSIONS: CD133(+)CD34(+)KDR(+) cells but not CFU-EPCs vary during the menstrual cycle. Our findings suggest a potential role for circulating EPCs in the normal cycle of physiological angiogenesis and repair of the uterine endometrium that is independent of circulating sex steroids or inflammatory mediators.

Original publication




Journal article


Hum reprod

Publication Date





619 - 625


AC133 Antigen, Adult, Antigens, CD, Antigens, CD34, Endothelial Cells, Endothelium, Vascular, Female, Flow Cytometry, Glycoproteins, Humans, Immunophenotyping, Menstrual Cycle, Neovascularization, Pathologic, Peptides, Stem Cells, Steroids, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2