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Immunity to Neisseria gonorrhoeae

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Front. Immunol. | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02710

Pathogenesis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae and the host defense in ascending infections of human fallopian tube

  • 1University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

Neisseria gonorrhoeae is an obligate human pathogen that causes mucosal surface infections of male and female reproductive tracts, pharynx, rectum, and conjunctiva. Asymptomatic or unnoticed infections in the lower reproductive tract of women can lead to serious, long-term consequences if these infections ascend into the fallopian tube. The damage caused by gonococcal infection and the subsequent inflammatory response produce the condition known as pelvic inflammatory disease. Infection can lead to tubal scarring, occlusion of the oviduct, and loss of critical ciliated cells. Consequences of the damage sustained on the fallopian tube epithelium include increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and tubal-factor infertility. Additionally, the resolution of infection can produce new adhesions between internal tissues, which can tear and reform, producing chronic pelvic pain. As a bacterium adapted to life in a human host, the gonococcus presents a challenge to the development of model systems for probing host-microbe interactions. Advances in small-animal models have yielded previously unattainable data on systemic immune responses, but the specificity of N. gonorrhoeae for many known (and unknown) host targets remains a constant hurdle. Infections of human volunteers are possible, though they present ethical and logistical challenges, and are necessarily limited to males due to the risk of severe complications in women. It is routine, however, that normal, healthy fallopian tubes are removed in the course of different gynecological surgeries (namely hysterectomy), making the very tissue most consequentially damaged during ascending gonococcal infection available for laboratory research. The study of fallopian tube organ cultures has allowed the opportunity to observe gonococcal biology and immune responses in a complex, multi-layered tissue from a natural host. Forty-five years since the first published example of human fallopian tube being infected ex vivo with N. gonorrhoeae, we review what modeling infections in human tissue explants has taught us about the gonococcus, what we have learned about the defenses mounted by the human host in the upper female reproductive tract, what other fields have taught us about ciliated and non-ciliated cell development, and ultimately offer suggestions regarding the next generation of model systems to help expand our ability to study gonococcal pathogenesis.

Keywords: Neisseria gonorrhoeae (GC), fallopian tube, oviduct, organ culture, Tissue explant, Cilia, Peptidoglycan (PG), Pelvic inflamatory disease (PID)

Received: 31 Aug 2018; Accepted: 02 Nov 2018.

Edited by:

Michael W. Russell, University at Buffalo, United States

Reviewed by:

Jennifer L. Edwards, The Ohio State University, United States
Wenxia Song, University of Maryland, College Park, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Lenz and Dillard. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Joseph P. Dillard, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, United States, jpdillard@wisc.edu