- PROBLEM: Genital epithelial cells (GECs) line the mucosal surface of the female genital tract (FGT) and are the first cells that interface with both commensal microbiota and sexually transmitted pathogens. Despite the protective barrier formed by GECs, the FGT is a major site of HIV-1 infection. This highlights the importance of studying the interaction of HIV-1 and GECs. METHOD OF STUDY: Using microarray analysis, we characterized the transcriptional profile of primary endometrial GECs grown in the presence or absence of physiological levels of E2 (10-9 mol/L) or P4 (10-7 mol/L) following acute exposure to HIV-1 for 6 hours. RESULTS: Acute exposure of primary endometrial GECs to HIV-1 resulted in the expression of genes related to inflammation, plasminogen activation, adhesion and diapedesis and interferon response. Interestingly, exposure to HIV-1 in the presence of E2 and P4 resulted in differential transcriptional profiles, suggesting that the response of primary endometrial GECs to HIV-1 exposure is modulated by female sex hormones. CONCLUSION: The gene expression signature of endometrial GECs indicates that the response of these cells may be key to determining host susceptibility to HIV-1 and that sex hormones modulate these interactions. This study allows us to explore possible mechanisms that explain the hormone-mediated fluctuation of HIV-1 susceptibility in women.