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Front. Immunol. | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02721

Inflammatory cytokine profiles of semen influence cytokine responses of cervicovaginal epithelial cells

  • 1University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • 2National Health Laboratory Service, South Africa
  • 3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (South Africa), South Africa

Genital inflammatory cytokine responses increase HIV risk. Since male partner semen is a complex mixture of immune-modulatory prostaglandins and cytokines, we hypothesized that exposure to semen may influence genital inflammation in women. Here, we investigated cytokine response kinetics of ectocervical cells following stimulation with seminal plasma from HIV-negative and HIV-positive men characterized as having low or high concentrations of inflammatory cytokines. Irrespective of the HIV status or semen cytokine profile, in vitro stimulation of ectocervical cells with seminal plasma resulted in significantly elevated concentrations of secreted IL-6, IL-8, TNF-β, MCP-1, GM-CSF, and VEGF within 8 hours of stimulation, which tended to decline by 24 hours, although this was only significant for TNF-β. Consistent with this, cervical cells responded to seminal plasma with increases in IL-8 and IL-1β mRNA expression of 10-fold. These findings suggest that the impact of semen on local female genital cytokines is likely transient. Although these findings suggest that the impact of semen on local female genital cytokines may not be sustained long-term, this heightened genital inflammation may have implications for HIV risk in women.

Keywords: HIV, Semen, Cytokines, HeLa, Female genital tract (FGT), Inflammation, interleukin

Received: 23 Jul 2018; Accepted: 05 Nov 2018.

Edited by:

Eric Cox, Ghent University, Belgium

Reviewed by:

Marc Yeste, University of Girona, Spain
Michael Von Wolff, Universitätsspital Bern, Switzerland  

Copyright: © 2018 Passmore, Rametse, Adefuye, Katz, Gamieldien, Burgers, Curry and Olivier. 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. Jo-Ann S. Passmore, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, jo-ann.passmore@uct.ac.za