Mucosal immunity in the female reproductive tract: Correlation of immunoglobulins, cytokines, and reproductive hormones in human cervical mucus around the time of ovulation

Academic Article


  • Mucosal surfaces serve as the portal of entry for many viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections. Understanding the immunity at mucosal membranes is essential to enhancing protection and decreasing infections. To evaluate the humoral and cellular immunity in the female reproductive tract, 15 reproductive-age women with a history of regular, cyclic monthly menses were recruited for this study. The presence of immunoglobulins and cytokines in cervical mucus was correlated with the production of reproductive hormones in sera. Cervical mucus specimens were collected at each daily visit beginning on cycle day 8 and continuing for 5 days postovulation. Volunteers were monitored by daily urinary LH testing coupled with transvaginal ultrasonography to ascertain follicular collapse. The cervix was washed in sterile saline before aspirating the cervical mucus from the cervical canal. Collection volumes ranged between 50 and 800 μl and were considered to represent the total mucus produced. Estradiol displayed the characteristic biphasic pattern with a peak before ovulation and in the luteal phase. Both IgG (30 mg/dl) and IgA (15 mg/dl) had a biphasic pattern with peak immunoglobulin levels detected 1 day before the estradiol peak and increasing again just after ovulation. Peak interleukin 10 (40 pg/ml) levels corresponded precisely with estradiol peak levels just before ovulation. Peak interleukin 1β (1.3 ng/ml) levels occurred approximately 1 day before the estradiol peak. No apparent pattern in interleukin 6 (150 pg/ml) could be ascertained. Our data suggest a correlation between the IgG and IgA immunoglobulin levels, interleukin 1β and interleukin 10, in the female reproductive tract and estradiol levels in the circulation. The increase in immunoglobulins and cytokines occurs approximately 1 day before the peak estradiol production before ovulation. These data suggest a role for cytokines and hormones in the regulation of reproductive tract immunity.
  • Published In

    Author List

  • Kutteh WH; Moldoveanu Z; Mestecky J
  • Volume

  • 14
  • Issue

  • SUPPL. 1