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J Leukoc Biol. 2018 Dec 14. doi: 10.1002/JLB.MR0318-122RR. [Epub ahead of print]

Type I IFNs in the female reproductive tract: The first line of defense in an ever-changing battleground.

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Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases, Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, Clayton, VIC, Australia.
Department of Medical Gerontology, Trinity Translational Medicine Institute, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.


The primary function of the female reproductive tract (FRT) is to enable successful reproduction, yet the biologic mechanisms required to accomplish this, which include fluctuating sex hormones and tolerance of semen and a semi-allogeneic fetus, can leave this unique mucosal environment susceptible to pathogenic challenge. Consequently, the FRT has evolved specialized innate and adaptive immune responses tailored to protecting itself from infection without compromising reproductive success. A family of innate immune cytokines that has emerged as important regulators of these immune responses is the type I IFNs. Type I IFNs are typically rapidly produced in response to pathogenic stimulation and are capable of sculpting pleotropic biologic effects, including immunomodulation, antiproliferative effects, and inducing antiviral and bactericidal molecules. Here, we review what is currently known about type I IFN-mediated immunity in the FRT in human, primate, and murine models and explore their importance with respect to three highly relevant FRT infections: HIV, Zika, and Chlamydia.


Chlamydia; HIV; Type I IFNs; Zika; female reproductive tract; hormonal regulation; mucosal immunity


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