• antigen presentation;
  • epithelial cells;
  • oestradiol;
  • pathogen-associated molecular patterns;
  • uterus


Cells of the female reproductive tract (FRT) can present antigen to naive and memory T cells. However, the effects of oestrogen, known to modulate immune responses, on antigen presentation in the FRT remain undefined. In the present study, DO11.10 T-cell antigen receptor transgenic mice specific for the class II MHC-restricted ovalbumin (OVA) 323–339 peptide were used to study the effects of oestradiol and pathogen-associated molecular patterns on antigen presentation in the FRT. We report here that oestradiol inhibited antigen presentation of OVA by uterine epithelial cells, uterine stromal cells and vaginal cells to OVA-specific memory T cells. When ovariectomized animals were treated with oestradiol for 1 or 3 days, antigen presentation was decreased by 20–80%. In contrast, incubation with PAMP increased antigen presentation by epithelial cells (Pam3Cys), stromal cells (peptidoglycan, Pam3Cys) and vaginal cells (Pam3Cys). In contrast, CpG inhibited both stromal and vaginal cell antigen presentation. Analysis of mRNA expression by reverse transcription PCR indicated that oestradiol inhibited CD40, CD80 and class II in the uterus and CD40, CD86 and class II in the vagina. Expression in isolated uterine and vaginal cells paralleled that seen in whole tissues. In contrast, oestradiol increased polymeric immunoglobulin receptor mRNA expression in the uterus and decreased it in the vagina. These results indicate that antigen-presenting cells in the uterus and vagina are responsive to oestradiol, which inhibits antigen presentation and co-stimulatory molecule expression. Further, these findings suggest that antigen-presenting cells in the uterus and vagina respond to selected Toll-like receptor agonists with altered antigen presentation.