IL-36γ induces a transient HSV-2 resistant environment that protects against genital disease and pathogenesis

Jameson K. Gardner, Melissa M. Herbst-Kralovetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) causes a persistent, lifelong infection that increases risk for sexually transmitted infection acquisition. Both the lack of a vaccine and the need for chronic suppressive therapies to control infection presents the need to further understand immune mechanisms in response to acute HSV-2 infection. The IL-36 cytokines are recently identified members of the IL-1 family and function as inflammatory mediators at epithelial sites. Here, we first used a well-characterized three-dimensional (3-D) human vaginal epithelial cell (VEC) model to understand the role of IL-36γ in the context of HSV-2 infection. In 3-D VEC, IL-36γ is induced by HSV-2 infection, and pretreatment with exogenous IL-36γ significantly reduced HSV-2 replication. To assess the impact of IL-36γ treatment on HSV-2 disease pathogenesis, we employed a lethal genital infection model. We showed that IL-36γ treatment in mice prior to lethal intravaginal challenge significantly limited vaginal viral replication, delayed disease onset, decreased disease severity, and significantly increased survival. We demonstrated that IL-36γ treatment transiently induced pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and antimicrobial peptides in murine lower female reproductive tract (FRT) tissue and vaginal lavages. Induction of the chemokines CCL20 and KC in IL-36γ treated mice also corresponded with increased polymorphonuclear (PMN) leukocyte infiltration observed in vaginal smears. Altogether, these studies demonstrate that IL-36γ drives the transient production of immune mediators and promotes PMN recruitment in the vaginal microenvironment that increases resistance to HSV-2 infection and disease. Our data indicate that IL-36γ may participate as a key player in host defense mechanisms against invading pathogens in the FRT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • 3-D bioreactor model
  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • Chemokines
  • HSV-2 mouse model
  • Host defense
  • IL-36 family members
  • Polymorphonuclear leukocytes
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Vaginal epithelial cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Hematology


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