Tenofovir Inhibits Wound Healing of Epithelial Cells and Fibroblasts from the Upper and Lower Human Female Reproductive Tract

Sci Rep. 2017 Apr 3:8:45725. doi: 10.1038/srep45725.


Disruption of the epithelium in the female reproductive tract (FRT) is hypothesized to increase HIV infection risk by interfering with barrier protection and facilitating HIV-target cell recruitment. Here we determined whether Tenofovir (TFV), used vaginally in HIV prevention trials, and Tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), an improved prodrug of TFV, interfere with wound healing in the human FRT. TFV treatment of primary epithelial cells and fibroblasts from the endometrium (EM), endocervix (CX) and ectocervix (ECX) significantly delayed wound closure. Reestablishment of tight junctions was compromised in EM and CX epithelial cells even after wound closure occurred. In contrast, TAF had no inhibitory effect on wound closure or tight junction formation following injury. TAF accumulated inside genital epithelial cells as TFV-DP, the active drug form. At elevated levels of TAF treatment to match TFV intracellular TFV-DP concentrations, both equally impaired barrier function, while wound closure was more sensitive to TFV. Furthermore, TFV but not TAF increased elafin and MIP3a secretion following injury, molecules known to be chemotactic for HIV-target cells. Our results highlight the need of evaluating antiretroviral effects on genital wound healing in future clinical trials. A possible link between delayed wound healing and increased risk of HIV acquisition deserves further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cervix Uteri / drug effects
  • Cervix Uteri / pathology
  • Endometrium / drug effects
  • Endometrium / pathology
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology*
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / pathology*
  • Genitalia, Female / drug effects
  • Genitalia, Female / pathology*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Tenofovir / pharmacology*
  • Vagina / drug effects
  • Vagina / pathology
  • Wound Healing / drug effects*


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Tenofovir