Role of Gardnerella Vaginalis Colonization in Cervicovaginal Space and its effect on Cervix Biomechanics
The role of the cervicovaginal (CV) microbiome in regulating cervical function during pregnancy is poorly understood. Gardnerella vaginalis (G. vaginalis) is the most common bacteria associated with the diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis (BV). While BV has been associated with preterm birth (PTB), clinical trials targeting BV do not decrease PTB rates. It remains unknown if G. vaginalis is capable of triggering molecular, biomechanical and cellular events that could lead to PTB. The objective of this study was to determine if cervicovaginal colonization with G. vaginalis, in pregnant mice, induced cervical remodeling and modified cervical function. CD-1 timed-pregnant mice received a 5X108 CFU/mL intravaginal inoculation of G. vaginalis or control on embryonic day 12 (E12) and E13. On E15, the mice were sacrificed and cervicovaginal fluid (CVF), amniotic fluid (AF), cervix, uterus, placentas and fetal membranes (FM) were collected. Genomic DNA was isolated from the CVF, placenta,uterus and FM and QPCR was performed to confirm colonization. IL-6 was measured in the CVF and AF and soluble e-cadherin (seCAD) was assessed in the CVF by ELISA. RNA was extracted from the cervices to evaluate IL-10, IL-8, IL-1β, TNF-α, Tff-1, SPINK-5, HAS-1 and LOX expression via QPCR. Mucicarmine and trichrome staining was used to assess cervical mucin and collagen. Biomechanical properties of the cervix were studied using quasi-static tensile load-to-failure biomechanical tests. G. vaginalis successfully colonized the CV space. This colonization induced immune responses (increased IL-6 levels in CVF and AF, increased mRNA expression of cervical cytokines), altered the epithelial barrier (increased seCAD in the CVF), induced cervical remodeling (increased mucin production, altered collagen) and altered cervical biomechanical properties (a decrease in biomechanical modulus and an increase in maximum strain). The ability of G. vaginalis to induce these molecular, immune, cellular and biomechanical changes suggests that this bacterium may play a pathogenic role in premature cervical remodeling leading to PTB.