Seminal plasma induces prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase (PTGS) 2 expression in immortalized human vaginal cells: involvement of semen prostaglandin E2 in PTGS2 upregulation

Biol Reprod. 2013 Jan 17;88(1):13. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.112.101956. Print 2013 Jan.


Inflammation of the cervicovaginal mucosa is considered a risk factor for HIV infection in heterosexual transmission. In this context, seminal plasma (SP) may play an important role that is not limited to being the main carrier for the virions. It is known that SP induces an inflammatory reaction in the cervix called postcoital leukocytic reaction, which has been associated with promotion of fertility. The mechanisms by which SP triggers this reaction, however, have not been clearly established. Previously we reported the expression of prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (PTGS2), also known as cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), in human vaginal cells in response to toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands and other proinflammatory stimuli. In this study, we demonstrate that SP induces transcriptional and translational increase of COX-2 expression in human vaginal cells and cervicovaginal tissue explants. Furthermore, SP potentiates vaginal PTGS2 expression induced by other proinflammatory stimulants, such as TLR ligands and a vaginal mucosal irritant (nonoxynol-9) in a synergistic manner. SP-induced PTGS2 expression is mediated by intracellular signaling pathways involving MAPKs and NF-κB. Using fractionation and functional analysis, seminal prostaglandin (PG)-E(2) was identified as a one of the major factors in PTGS2 induction. Given the critical role of this PG-producing enzyme in mucosal inflammatory processes, the finding that SP induces and potentiates the expression of PTGS2 in cervicovaginal cells and tissues has mechanistic implications for the role of SP in fertility-associated mucosal leukocytic reaction and its potential HIV infection-enhancing effect.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cervix Uteri / drug effects
  • Cervix Uteri / metabolism
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / biosynthesis*
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / genetics
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Dinoprostone / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases / genetics
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Semen / physiology*
  • Tissue Culture Techniques
  • Vagina / cytology*


  • NF-kappa B
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases
  • Dinoprostone