Topical microbicides represent a promising new approach to preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. TLR agonists are ideal candidates for microbicides, as they trigger a multitude of antiviral genes effective against a broad range of viruses. Although vaginal application of CpG oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) and poly I:C has been shown to protect mice from genital herpes infection, the mechanism by which these agents provide protection remains unclear. Here, we show that plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) are required for CpG ODN–mediated protection against lethal vaginal challenge with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Moreover, we demonstrate that cells of both the hematopoietic and stromal compartments must respond to CpG ODN via TLR9 and to type I IFNs through IFN-αβ receptor (IFN-αβR) for protection. Thus, crosstalk between pDCs and vaginal stromal cells provides for optimal microbicide efficacy. Our results imply that temporally and spatially controlled targeting of CpG ODN to pDCs and epithelial cells can potentially maximize their effectiveness as microbicides while minimizing the associated inflammatory responses.
Hong Shen, Akiko Iwasaki