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Lab Invest. 1994 Mar;70(3):369-80.

A mouse model for studies of mucosal immunity to vaginal infection by herpes simplex virus type 2.

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Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.



The role of mucosal immunity in defense of the female genital tract against pathogens such as herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) is poorly understood. Here we explored the use of a new mouse model to determine whether local immune events in the vagina of immune animals may protect them against genital herpes.


The effect of the estrous cycle, pregnancy, and sex hormones on vaginal infection of adult mice by HSV-2 was determined by immunolabeling of virus proteins. The immune response to infection was studied by immunolabeling of T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, and plasma cells in the vagina of infected mice.


Inoculation of attenuated virus (TK-HSV-2) or wild-type virus (TK+HSV-2) into the vagina on day 6 of pregnancy or after treatment with Depo-Provera (DP) caused infection of the vaginal epithelium. In contrast, these viruses did not cause infection after vaginal inoculation at estrus, metestrus, or after treatment with Depo-Estradiol. Infected mice showed immunolabeling of virus in the vaginal epithelium from 24 hrs to 5 days after virus inoculation. The immune response to infection included upregulation of class II MHC antigen in vaginal epithelium, CD8+ T cells in epithelium and stroma, and plasma cells and lymphoid nodules in the stroma. Mice that were infected with TK-HSV-2 did not exhibit infection of vaginal epithelium when challenged 6 weeks later with TK+HSV-2.


Progesterone-dominated adult mice become infected after intravaginal inoculation with HSV-2, but estradiol-dominated mice are refractory. Vaginal infection with attenuated HSV-2 produces immunity that protects mice against later infection by wild-type virus. This immunity either prevents infection of vaginal epithelium or severely inhibits viral replication in the epithelium. The observations suggest that the E/DP-treated adult mouse should be a useful model for studies of mucosal immunity to vaginal infection by HSV-2.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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