The effects of commensal bacteria on innate immune responses in the female genital tract

Am J Reprod Immunol. 2011 Mar;65(3):190-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0897.2010.00943.x. Epub 2010 Dec 9.


The innate and adaptive immune systems are important mechanisms for resistance to pathogens in the female lower genital tract. Lactobacilli at this site help maintain a healthy vagina by producing several factors including lactic acid. Indeed, bacterial vaginosis, a condition in which the genital microbiota is altered, is strongly associated with increased rates of a number of infections including HIV. However, the precise factors that contribute to increased rates of microbial and viral infections in bacterial vaginosis remain to be elucidated. We have studied the effects of bacterial microbiota in the lower genital tract on innate immunity and have found that Toll-like receptor ligands and short chain fatty acids, produced by bacterial microbiota, have dramatic effects on immune function. In this review, we will discuss these results, in addition to some recent articles that we believe will enhance our understanding of how microbes might interact with the immune system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Fatty Acids
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / immunology*
  • Genitalia, Female / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Lactobacillus / physiology
  • Metagenome*
  • Mucous Membrane / immunology
  • Mucous Membrane / microbiology
  • Symbiosis
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology
  • Vaginosis, Bacterial / immunology
  • Vaginosis, Bacterial / microbiology


  • Fatty Acids
  • Toll-Like Receptors