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J Infect Dis. 2014 Jun 15;209(12):1989-99. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiu004. Epub 2014 Jan 7.

Bacteria in the vaginal microbiome alter the innate immune response and barrier properties of the human vaginal epithelia in a species-specific manner.

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Human and Molecular Biology Center, Saarland University, Saarbrucken, Germany Department of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Medicine-Phoenix, University of Arizona.
Department of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Medicine-Phoenix, University of Arizona.



Bacterial vaginosis increases the susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections and negatively affects women's reproductive health.


To investigate host-vaginal microbiota interactions and the impact on immune barrier function, we colonized 3-dimensional (3-D) human vaginal epithelial cells with 2 predominant species of vaginal microbiota (Lactobacillus iners and Lactobacillus crispatus) or 2 prevalent bacteria associated with bacterial vaginosis (Atopobium vaginae and Prevotella bivia).


Colonization of 3-D vaginal epithelial cell aggregates with vaginal microbiota was observed with direct attachment to host cell surface with no cytotoxicity. A. vaginae infection yielded increased expression membrane-associated mucins and evoked a robust proinflammatory, immune response in 3-D vaginal epithelial cells (ie, expression of CCL20, hBD-2, interleukin 1β, interleukin 6, interleukin 8, and tumor necrosis factor α) that can negatively affect barrier function. However, P. bivia and L. crispatus did not significantly upregulate pattern-recognition receptor-signaling, mucin expression, antimicrobial peptides/defensins, or proinflammatory cytokines in 3-D vaginal epithelial cell aggregates. Notably, L. iners induced pattern-recognition receptor-signaling activity, but no change was observed in mucin expression or secretion of interleukin 6 and interleukin 8.


We identified unique species-specific immune signatures from vaginal epithelial cells elicited by colonization with commensal and bacterial vaginosis-associated bacteria. A. vaginae elicited a signature that is consistent with significant disruption of immune barrier properties, potentially resulting in enhanced susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections during bacterial vaginosis.


Atopobium vaginae; Lactobacillus spp.; Prevotella bivia; antimicrobial peptides; barrier function; epithelial cell; female reproductive tract; innate immunity; mucin; sexually transmitted infection; toll-like receptor; vagina; vaginal microbiota and bacterial vaginosis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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