Inflammation in the female reproductive tract (FRT) is associated with increased HIV transmission. Lactobacillus spp. dominate the vaginal microbiota of many women and their presence is associated with reduced HIV acquisition. Here we demonstrate that lactic acid (LA), a major organic acid metabolite produced by lactobacilli, mediates anti-inflammatory effects on human cervicovaginal epithelial cells. Treatment of human vaginal and cervical epithelial cell lines with LA (pH 3.9) elicited significant increases in the production of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-1RA. When added simultaneously or prior to stimulation, LA inhibited the Toll-like receptor agonist-elicited production of inflammatory mediators IL-6, IL-8, TNFα, RANTES, and MIP3α from epithelial cell lines and prevented IL-6 and IL-8 production by seminal plasma. The anti-inflammatory effect of LA was mediated by the protonated form present at pH≤3.86 and was observed with both L- and D-isomers. A similar anti-inflammatory effect of LA was observed in primary cervicovaginal cells and in an organotypic epithelial tissue model. These findings identify a novel property of LA that acts directly on epithelial cells to inhibit FRT inflammation and highlights the potential use of LA-containing agents in the lower FRT as adjuncts to female-initiated strategies to reduce HIV acquisition.Mucosal Immunology advance online publication,
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This work was supported by the National Health and Medical Research
Council of Australia (NHMRC; Project Grant 1088564). G.T. was supported
by the NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (Grants 543105 and 1117748).
L.B. was funded by the Fogerty International Center/NIH D43 grant.We wish
to thank Dr Thomas Moench for critical review of the manuscript and
gratefully acknowledge the contribution to this work of the Victorian
Operational Infrastructure Support Program received by the Burnet Institute.