Background: Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is a leading cause of genital ulceration that can predispose individuals to an increased risk of acquiring other sexually transmitted infections. There are no approved HSV-2 vaccines and current suppressive therapies require daily compound administration that does not prevent all recurrences. A promising experimental strategy is the use of toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists to induce an innate immune response that provides resistance to HSV-2 infection. Previous studies showed that anti-herpetic activity varied based on origin of the agonists and activation of different TLR indicating that activity likely occurs through elaboration of a specific innate immune response. To test the hypothesis, we evaluated the ability of a bacterial-derived TLR2/6 agonist (FSL-1) to increase resistance to experimental genital HSV-2 infection. Methods: Vaginal application of FSL-1 at selected doses and times was evaluated to identify potential increased resistance to genital HSV-2 infection in the mouse model. The FSL-1 induced cytokine profile was quantified using kinetically collected vaginal lavages. Additionally, cytokine elaboration and organ weights were evaluated after single or multiple FSL-1 doses to establish a preliminary safety profile. Human vaginal EC cultures were used to confirm the mouse model outcomes. Results: The results showed that vaginally-applied FSL-1 created an environment resistant to a 25-fold higher HSV-2 challenge dose. Mechanistically, vaginal FSL-1 application led to transient elaboration of cytokines linked to anti-herpetic innate immune responses. No gross local or peripheral immunotoxicity was observed even after multiple dosing. FSL-1 also created an anti-herpetic environment in cultures of human vaginal epithelial cells (EC). Conclusion: The results showed, for the first time, that the bacterial-derived TLR2/6 agonist FSL-1 induced significant resistance to HSV-2 infection when applied in mice or human vaginal EC cultures. Cytokine evaluation illustrated that anti-herpetic activity correlated with induction of a specific profile. The identified anti-herpetic profile provides an invaluable resource for the future design of novel compounds to reduce genital HSV-2 transmission and improves understanding of the complex innate immune response to potential pathogens elicited by the vaginal mucosa.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases