Purpose: Adherence of type 1 piliated Escherichia coli to vaginal mucosa plays a major role in the pathogenesis of ascending urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women. Progress in understanding the mechanism of adherence to the vaginal surface could be enhanced by the utilization of well-characterized vaginal epithelial cells. The objective of this study was to immortalize vaginal epithelial cells and study their bacterial adherence properties.
Materials and methods: Primary vaginal cells were obtained from a normal post-menopausal woman, immortalized by infection with E6/E7 genes from human papillomavirus 16 (HPV 16) and cultured in serum free keratinocyte growth factor medium.
Results: Positive immunostaining with a pool of antibodies to cytokeratins 1, 5, 10 and 14 (K1, K5, K10 and K14) and to K13 confirmed the epithelial origin of these cells. The immortalized cells showed binding of type 1 piliated E. coli in a pili specific and mannose sensitive manner.
Conclusion: This model system should facilitate studies on the interaction of pathogens with vaginal mucosal cells, an essential step in the progression of ascending UTIs in women.