Interferon-gamma inhibits seminal plasma induction of colony-stimulating factor 2 in mouse and human reproductive tract epithelial cells

David J. Sharkey, Danielle J. Glynn, John E. Schjenken, Kelton P. Tremellen, Sarah A. Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Seminal fluid interacts with the female reproductive tract to initiate a permissive immune response that facilitates embryo implantation and pregnancy success. The immune-regulatory cytokine interferon-3 (IFNG), which can be elevated in seminal plasma, is associated with reduced fertility. Here, we investigated how IFNG influences the female immune response to seminal fluid. In human Ect1 cervical epithelial cells, IFNG added at physiologically relevant concentrations substantially impaired seminal plasma-induced synthesis of key cytokines colony-stimulating factor 2 (CSF2) and interleukin-6 (IL6). Seminal fluid-induced CSF2 synthesis was also suppressed in the uterus of mice in vivo, when IFNG was delivered transcervically 12 h after mating. Transforming growth factor B1 (TGFB1) is the major seminal fluid signaling factor which elicits CSF2 induction, and IFNG exhibited potent dose-dependent suppression of CSF2 synthesis induced by TGFB1 in murine uterine epithelial cells in vitro. Similarly, IFNG suppressed TGFB1-mediated CSF2 induction in Ect1 cells and human primary cervical epithelial cells; however, IL6 regulation by IFNG was independent of TGFB1. Quantitative PCR confirmed that CSF2 regulation by IFNG in Ect1 cells occurs at the gene transcription level, secondary to IFNG suppression of TGFBR2 encoding TGFB receptor 2. Conversely, TGFB1 suppressed IFNG receptor 1 and 2 genes IFNGR1 and IFNGR2. These data identify IFNG as a potent inhibitor of the TGFB-mediated seminal fluid interaction with relevant reproductive tract epithelia in mice and human. These findings raise the prospect that IFNG in the male partner's seminal fluid impairs immune adaptation for pregnancy following coitus in women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-526
Number of pages13
JournalBiology of Reproduction
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • cervix
  • cytokines
  • female reproductive tract
  • immunology
  • seminal plasma
  • uterus


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