Background: Genital Chlamydia (C) trachomatis infection has been recognized as the single most common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease leading to severe tubal damage, ectopic pregnancy, infertility and hydrosalpinx. However, the mechanism underlying the formation of hydrosalpinx induced by C. trachomatis infection remains largely unknown. We performed this study to determine the involvement of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), a cAMP-activated chloride channel that regulates epithelial electrolyte and fluid secretion, in hydrosalpinx fluid formation.
Methods: Western blot analysis was used to determine CFTR expression in the hydrosalpinges that were seen on the ultrasound scans of infertile assisted reproduction treatment patients. Correlation with C. trachomatis infection was done by testing patients' sera for C. trachomatis immunoglobulin G antibody titer using a Capita enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay based kit. CFTR involvement was further verified in a rat C. trachomatis infection model and confirmed using CFTR mutant (CFTR(tm1Unc)) mice.
Results: Here we report on the up-regulated expression of CFTR in the hydrosalpinx tissues of infertile patients with detectable serum levels of C. trachomatis antibody (immunoglobulin G). In a rat model, increased CFTR expression and fluid accumulation could be observed in the uterine horns infected with C. trachomatis elementary bodies, which was reversed by antibiotics treatment. In C. trachomatis-infected CFTR(tm1Unc) mice, however, no detectable fluid accumulation was observed.
Conclusion: These findings suggest the involvement of CFTR in the pathogenesis of hydrosalpinx fluid formation and may provide grounds for a better treatment strategy to improve assisted reproduction treatment outcome in infertile patients with hydrosalpinx.