The Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Curcumin Protects the Genital Mucosal Epithelial Barrier from Disruption and Blocks Replication of HIV-1 and HSV-2
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Inflammation is a known mechanism that facilitates HIV acquisition and the spread of infection. In this study, we evaluated whether curcumin, a potent and safe anti-inflammatory compound, could be used to abrogate inflammatory processes that facilitate HIV-1 acquisition in the female genital tract (FGT) and contribute to HIV amplification. Primary, human genital epithelial cells (GECs) were pretreated with curcumin and exposed to HIV-1 or HIV glycoprotein 120 (gp120), both of which have been shown to disrupt epithelial tight junction proteins, including ZO-1 and occludin. Pre-treatment with curcumin prevented disruption of the mucosal barrier by maintaining ZO-1 and occludin expression and maintained trans-epithelial electric resistance across the genital epithelium. Curcumin pre-treatment also abrogated the gp120-mediated upregulation of the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin (IL)-6, which mediate barrier disruption, as well as the chemokines IL-8, RANTES and interferon gamma-induced protein-10 (IP-10), which are capable of recruiting HIV target cells to the FGT. GECs treated with curcumin and exposed to the sexually transmitted co-infecting microbes HSV-1, HSV-2 and Neisseria gonorrhoeae were unable to elicit innate inflammatory responses that indirectly induced activation of the HIV promoter and curcumin blocked Toll-like receptor (TLR)-mediated induction of HIV replication in chronically infected T-cells. Finally, curcumin treatment resulted in significantly decreased HIV-1 and HSV-2 replication in chronically infected T-cells and primary GECs, respectively. All together, our results suggest that the use of anti-inflammatory compounds such as curcumin may offer a viable alternative for the prevention and/or control of HIV replication in the FGT.
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