Antigen-Presenting Cells in the Female Reproductive Tract: Influence of Estradiol on Antigen Presentation by Vaginal Cells1
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The objective of the present study was to define the afferent arm of the mucosal immune system in the lower female reproductive tract. We report here that antigen presentation by vaginal cells is under hormonal control. When vaginal cells from ovariectomized rats treated with estradiol (0.01-10 microg) were incubated with ovalbumin-specific T cells and ovalbumin, a dose-dependent inhibition of antigen presentation was measured. In time course studies, estradiol given to ovariectomized rats inhibited vaginal cell antigen presentation within 24 h after a single injection, relative to that seen in saline controls. To determine whether changes in antigen presentation were attributable to the effect of estradiol on the number of antigen-presenting cells (APCs) in the vagina, tissues were analyzed by immunohistochemistry. Our findings indicate that estradiol inhibited antigen presentation without affecting the number of major histocompatibility complex class II positive cells and at a time when macrophage/dendritic cells/granulocytes in the vagina increase in response to estradiol treatment. Antibody neutralization studies indicated that antigen presentation by vaginal cells from ovariectomized rats is mediated through class II and involves the expression of transmembrane proteins B7.1 and B7.2. In other studies, vaginal APCs interact with thymus APCs to synergistically enhance antigen presentation under conditions in which vaginal antigen presentation is inhibited by estradiol. Analysis of conditioned media indicates that enhancement of thymus antigen presentation involves the release of a soluble factor(s) into the culture media of vaginal cells. When spleen cells were cocultured with vaginal cells from saline-treated rats, proliferation increased in the presence of concanavalin A and/or phytohemagglutinin and decreased with lipopolysaccharide, relative to spleen cells and mitogen alone. In contrast, when incubated with vaginal cells from estradiol-treated rats, spleen cell proliferation was not affected with concanavalin but was inhibited with phytohemagglutinin and lipopolysaccharide. These studies demonstrate that estradiol regulates antigen presentation by vaginal cells and that vaginal cells, in turn, influence antigen presentation, as well as B and T cell proliferation.
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