Estradiol-induced vaginal mucus inhibits antigen penetration and CD8(+) T cell priming in response to intravaginal immunization

Vaccine. 2009 Apr 14;27(17):2342-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.02.025. Epub 2009 Feb 14.


Although vaginal immunization has been explored as a strategy to induce mucosal immunity in the female reproductive tract, this site displays unique immunological features that probably evolved to inhibit anti-paternal T cell responses after insemination to allow successful pregnancy. We previously demonstrated that estradiol, which induces an estrus-like state, prevented CD8(+) T cell priming during intravaginal immunization of mice. We now show that estradiol prevented antigen loading of vaginal antigen presenting cells (APCs) after intravaginal immunization. Histological examination confirmed that estradiol prevented penetration of peptide antigen into the vaginal wall. Removal of the estradiol-induced mucus barrier by mucinase partially restored antigen loading of vaginal APC and CD8(+) T cell proliferation in vivo. The estradiol-induced mucus barrier may thus prevent exposure to antigens delivered intravaginally, supplementing additional estradiol-dependent mechanism(s) that inhibit CD8(+) T cell priming after insemination or vaginal vaccination.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravaginal
  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / drug effects
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Antigens / metabolism*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cervix Mucus / drug effects
  • Cervix Mucus / immunology*
  • Cross-Priming / drug effects*
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Immunization*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Vagina / immunology
  • Vagina / metabolism


  • Antigens
  • Vaccines
  • Estradiol