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J Reprod Immunol. 2013 Mar;97(1):74-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2012.10.010.

Innate and adaptive anti-HIV immune responses in the female reproductive tract.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, NH 03756, USA.


The mucosal surface of the female reproductive tract (FRT) is the primary site of transmission for a plethora of sexually transmitted infections, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), that represent a significant burden upon womens' health worldwide. However, fundamental aspects of innate and adaptive immune protection against HIV infection in the FRT are poorly understood. The FRT immune system is regulated by the cyclical changes of the sex hormones estradiol and progesterone across the menstrual cycle, which as we have hypothesized, leads to the creation of a window of vulnerability during the secretory stage of the menstrual cycle, when the risk of HIV transmission is increased. The goal of this review is to summarize the multiple levels of protection against HIV infection in the FRT, the contribution of different cell types including epithelial cells, macrophages, T cells, and dendritic cells to this, and their regulation by estradiol and progesterone. Understanding the unique immune environment in the FRT will allow for the potential development of novel therapeutic interventions such as vaccines and microbicides that may reduce or prevent HIV transmission in women.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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