The molecular basis of nonoxynol-9-induced vaginal inflammation and its possible relevance to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 transmission

J Infect Dis. 2001 Aug 15;184(4):418-28. doi: 10.1086/322047. Epub 2001 Jul 16.


Topical microbicides are being sought to prevent sexually transmitted diseases by inactivating pathogens while preserving or enhancing the natural mucosal barrier. Serious public health concerns were raised by a recent phase 3 clinical trial that showed that nonoxynol-9 (N-9), a leading microbicide candidate widely used as an over-the-counter spermicide, may actually increase human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transmission. The present study links N-9-induced vaginal inflammation to increased risk of HIV-1 infection. Analysis of molecular and cellular components in cervicovaginal secretions, as well as results from in vitro activation of cervicovaginal epithelial cells and U1/HIV promonocytic cells, showed that multiple N-9 use can promote HIV-1 transmission through interleukin-1-mediated NF-kappaB activation, which leads to chemokine-induced recruitment of HIV-1 host cells and increased HIV-1 replication in infected cells. Furthermore, this study identifies in vitro and in vivo model systems for monitoring undesirable proinflammatory effects of microbicides and other vaginal products.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Cervix Uteri / cytology
  • Cervix Uteri / drug effects
  • Cervix Uteri / immunology
  • Chemokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1 / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Nonoxynol / administration & dosage
  • Nonoxynol / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Therapeutic Irrigation
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Vagina / cytology
  • Vagina / drug effects
  • Vagina / immunology
  • Vaginitis / chemically induced*


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-1
  • NF-kappa B
  • Nonoxynol