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J Virol. 2005 Mar;79(5):3117-26.

Protection against genital herpes infection in mice immunized under different hormonal conditions correlates with induction of vagina-associated lymphoid tissue.

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Department of Pathology, MDCL 4014, McMaster University, 1200 Main St. West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


The present study was undertaken to examine the effect of the hormonal environment on immunization with an attenuated strain of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2 TK(-)) and subsequent protection against challenge. Ovariectomized mice were administered saline (S; control), estradiol (E(2)), progesterone (P(4)), or a combination of estradiol and progesterone (E+P) and immunized intravaginally (IVAG) with HSV-2 TK(-). Three weeks later, the immunized mice were challenged IVAG with wild-type HSV-2. Mice that were immunized following E treatment were not protected, whereas complete protection against the challenge was seen in mice from the S- and P(4)-treated groups. In the P(4)-treated group, 15% of mice developed chronic pathology following TK(-) immunization. Interestingly, about 40% of the E+P-treated mice were also protected. Upon examination of viral shedding in the vaginal secretions, it was clear that protection against challenge was dependent on the ability of the TK(-) virus to cause productive genital infection under different hormonal conditions. In the protected mice (the S and P groups and part of the E+P group), induced vagina-associated lymphoid tissues composed of CD11c(+) dendritic cells and CD3(+) and CD4(+) T cells were formed transiently in the vaginal lamina propria from day 2 to day 5 postchallenge. These aggregates were absent in the unprotected mice (the E group and part of the E+P group). Significant HSV-2-specific activation of lymphocytes was observed in the local draining lymph nodes of protected mice. This response was absent in the unprotected groups. High titers of gB-specific local immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies were present in the vaginal secretions of S- and P(4)-treated immunized mice following HSV-2 challenge. The S-treated group of mice also had high gB-specific IgG titers. These studies show that sex hormones modify the induction of protective immune responses following IVAG immunization.

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