To elucidate the effect of exogenous hormones on the vaginal mucosa, specifically the effect of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone on cellular proliferation and barrier integrity.
Immortalized human tissue lines of the vaginal mucosa (VK2) and ectocervix (ECT1) were treated with low (0.1 nM), moderate (100 nM), and high (1 μM) doses of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. A standardized MTT assay was used to assess proliferation at 48 and 72 hours and a cell membrane resistivity assay was used to assess barrier strength over 8 days.
The MTT assay demonstrated suppressed proliferation with estrogen treatment compared to a no-treatment control in ECT1, with greatest suppression at 1 μM. VK2 had increased proliferation with estrogen at 0.1 and 100 nM but was suppressed at 1 μM concentration. Progesterone had minimal proliferative effect and had suppression at 1 μM in VK2 and ECT1. Testosterone increased proliferation at 100 nM in ECT1 but had minimal effect at 0.1 nM and 1 μM. VK2 had an incremental increases in proliferation with increasing doses of testosterone. Cell membrane resistance was increased with increasing doses of estrogen in ECT1. Resistance was increased at 100 nM progesterone but had minimal change from control at 1 μM. Testosterone did not affect resistance. VK2 had increased resistance with estrogen; progesterone and testosterone treatment did not change resistance.
Our investigation found that cell proliferation and barrier strength was increased with estrogen at physiologic dosages and suppressed with progesterone. This information correlates with the role of exogenous estrogen application and its effect on the health of the vaginal mucosa.
UC Davis Department of OB/GYN, Sacramento, CA
Financial Disclosure: The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.