Induction of innate immune responses in the female genital tract: friend or foe of HIV-1 infection?

Am J Reprod Immunol. 2011 Mar;65(3):344-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0897.2010.00945.x. Epub 2011 Jan 12.


Heterosexual transmission of HIV-1 and HSV-2 across the genital tract epithelial tissue is one of the primary routes for dissemination of these viral infections. Mucosal innate immunity is the first line of defense against invading pathogens. A vast majority of mucosal HIV-1 exposures do not result in productive infections which may indicate that the innate mucosal immune system is highly protective. It has been shown that Toll-like receptors (TLR)-induced innate antiviral immunity in the genital mucosa lead to induction of type I and III interferon and prevention of HSV-2 infection. The innate antiviral function of type I and III interferons and other innate factors at genital mucosa against HIV-1 is not well defined. In this review, we summarize our current understanding and advances of the innate mucosal response to genital viral infections, including HIV-1 and HSV-2, focusing on those factors that may prevent or accelerate initial infection. Understanding how each of these components contributes to mucosal innate antiviral immunity may lead to the development of novel and effective strategies to use microbicides or antiviral agents to control HIV-1 acquisition and/or transmission.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / immunology
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • HIV-1*
  • Herpes Simplex / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / immunology*
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Immunity, Mucosal*
  • Interferons / immunology
  • Mucous Membrane / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Interferons