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PloS one

Human cathelicidin production by the cervix.


PMID 25089904

Abstract

hCAP18/LL-37 is the sole human cathelicidin; a family of host defence peptides with key roles in innate host defence. hCAP18/LL-37 is expressed primarily by neutrophils and epithelial cells, but its production and function in the lower genital tract is largely uncharacterised. Despite the significant roles for cathelicidin in multiple organs and inflammatory processes, its impact on infections that could compromise fertility and pregnancy is unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate cathelicidin production, regulation and function in the cervix. hCAP18/LL-37 was found to be present in cervicovaginal secretions collected from women in the first trimester of pregnancy and to be expressed at significantly higher levels in samples from women with alterations in vaginal bacterial flora characteristic of bacterial vaginosis. In endocervical epithelial cell lines, expression of the gene encoding hCAP18/LL-37 (CAMP) was not affected by TLR agonists, but was found to be up-regulated by both 1, 25 hydroxyvitamin D3 and 25 hydroxyvitamin D3. However, no association was found between serum levels of vitamin D and hCAP18/LL-37 concentrations in cervicovaginal secretions (n = 116). Exposure to synthetic LL-37 had a pro-inflammatory effect on endocervical epithelial cell lines, increasing secretion of inflammatory cytokine IL-8. Together these data demonstrate inducible expression of hCAP18/LL-37 in the female lower reproductive tract in vivo and suggest the capacity for this peptide to modulate host defence to infection in this system. Further investigation will elucidate the effects of hCAP18/LL-37 on the physiology and pathophysiology of labour, and may lead to strategies for the prevention of infection-associated preterm birth.