Parallel studies of mucosal immunity in the reproductive and gastrointestinal mucosa of HIV-infected women

Uma Shanmugasundaram, J. William Critchfield, Linda C. Giudice, Karen Smith-McCune, Ruth M. Greenblatt, Barbara L. Shacklett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Problem: The effects of HIV on the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), including CD4 depletion, epithelial disruption, and collagen deposition, are well documented and only partially reversed by combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). However, the effects of HIV on the female reproductive tract (FRT) are poorly understood, and most studies have focused on ectocervix and vagina without assessing the upper tract. Here, we investigated CD4+ T-cell frequency, phenotype, and HIV-specific T-cell responses in the endocervix and endometrium of HIV-infected women, comparing these tissues to the GIT. Method of Study: Mucosal samples and blood were obtained from 18 women: four who were HIV-positive and not on cART for at least 3 years prior to sampling, including two natural controllers (viral load [VL] undetectable and CD4 >350); nine women on cART with low to undetectable VL; and five HIV-uninfected women. Mucosal samples included terminal ileum, sigmoid colon, endocervical cytobrush, endocervical curettage, and endometrial biopsy. T-cell frequency, phenotypes, and HIV-specific T-cell responses were analyzed by multiparameter flow cytometry. Results: T-cell activation, measured by CD38/HLA-DR co-expression, remained significantly elevated in endometrium following cART, but was lower in gastrointestinal tissues. HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell responses were detected in ileum, colon, and endometrial tissues of women both on and off cART, and were of higher magnitude on those not on cART. Conclusion: Our findings reveal differences in CD4+ T-cell frequencies, immune activation, and HIV-specific T-cell responses between the gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts, and highlight differences between HIV controllers and women on cART.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13246
JournalAmerican Journal of Reproductive Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • CTL
  • endocervix
  • endometrium
  • GALT
  • HIV
  • MALT
  • T-cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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