PloS one

Sex hormones regulate tenofovir-diphosphate in female reproductive tract cells in culture.

PMID 24978212


The conflicting results of recent pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) trials utilizing tenofovir (TFV) to prevent HIV infection in women led us to evaluate the accumulation of intracellular TFV-diphosphate (TFV-DP) in cells from the female reproductive tract (FRT) and whether sex hormones influence the presence of TFV-DP in these cells. Following incubation with TFV, isolated epithelial cells, fibroblasts, CD4+ T cells and CD14+ cells from the FRT as well as blood CD4+ T cells and monocyte-derived macrophages convert TFV to TFV-DP. Unexpectedly, we found that TFV-DP concentrations (fmol/million cells) vary significantly with the cell type analyzed and the site within the FRT. Epithelial cells had 5-fold higher TFV-DP concentrations than fibroblasts; endometrial epithelial cells had higher TFV-DP concentrations than cells from the ectocervix. Epithelial cells had 125-fold higher TFV-DP concentrations than FRT CD4+ T cells, which were comparable to that measured in peripheral blood CD4+ T cells. These findings suggest the existence of a TFV-DP gradient in the FRT where epithelial cells > fibroblasts > CD4+ T cells and macrophages. In other studies, estradiol increased TFV-DP concentrations in endometrial and endocervical/ectocervical epithelial cells, but had no effect on fibroblasts or CD4+ T cells from FRT tissues. In contrast, progesterone alone and in combination with estradiol decreased TFV-DP concentrations in FRT CD4+ T cells. Our results suggest that epithelial cells and fibroblasts are a repository of TFV-DP that is under hormonal control. These cells might act either as a sink to decrease TFV availability to CD4+ T cells and macrophages in the FRT, or upon conversion of TFV-DP to TFV increase TFV availability to HIV-target cells. In summary, these results indicate that intracellular TFV-DP varies with cell type and location in the FRT and demonstrate that estradiol and/or progesterone regulate the intracellular concentrations of TFV-DP in FRT epithelial cells and CD4+ T cells.