Innate and adaptive immunity in female genital tract: cellular responses and interactions

Immunol Rev. 2005 Aug;206:306-35. doi: 10.1111/j.0105-2896.2005.00287.x.


The mucosal immune system in the female reproductive tract (FRT) has evolved to meet the unique requirements of dealing with sexually transmitted bacterial and viral pathogens, allogeneic spermatozoa, and the immunologically distinct fetus. Analysis of the FRT indicates that the key cells of the innate and adaptive immune systems are present and functionally responsive to antigens. Acting through Toll-like receptors in the Fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, and in the vagina, epithelial cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, and neutrophils confer protection through the production of chemokines and cytokines, which recruit and activate immune cells, as well as bactericidal and virucidal agents, which confer protection at times when adaptive immunity is downregulated by sex hormones to meet the constraints of procreation. The overall goal of this paper is to define the innate immune system in the FRT and, where possible, to define the regulatory influences that occur during the menstrual cycle that contribute to protection from and susceptibility to potential pathogens. By understanding the nature of this protection and the ways in which innate and adaptive immunity interact, these studies provide the opportunity to contribute to the foundation of information essential for ensuring reproductive health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / cytology
  • Genitalia, Female / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular*
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Immunity, Mucosal