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Hum Reprod. 2005 May;20(5):1372-8. Epub 2005 Feb 3.

Characterization of Toll-like receptors in the female reproductive tract in humans.

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  • 1Academic Unit of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine, University of Sheffield, UK.



Rapid innate immune defences against infection involve the recognition of invading pathogens by specific pattern recognition receptors recently attributed to the family of Toll-like receptors (TLR). Little is known about the in vivo protein expression or distribution of TLR in the female reproductive tract in humans. It is likely that TLR distribution in the female reproductive tract reflects the immunological tolerance to the commensal organisms in lower parts of the tract (vagina, ectocervix and, partially, endocervix) and the intolerance to commensal microbial flora in the upper tract (the uterus and uterine tubes).


Using immunohistochemistry techniques, distribution of TLR1-6 was studied in surgical sections from the vagina, ecto- and endocervix, endometrium and uterine tubes, obtained from patients undergoing abdominal hysterectomy for benign gynaecological conditions.


TLR1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 were present in the epithelia of different regions of female reproductive tract. However, TLR4 was only present in the endocervix, endometrium and uterine tubes and absent in vagina and ectocervix. In addition, a secretory form of TLR4 seems to be produced by the endocervical glands.


TLR4 may play an important role in modulation of immunological tolerance in the lower parts of the female reproductive tract, and in host defence against ascending infection.

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