The endocervix has both anatomical and biological functions that participate in the delicate balance between tolerance necessary for conception and protection from pathogens. Our goal was to develop a robust 3-dimensional (3D) endocervix model that was a reliable representation of the in vivo tissues and to identify the physiological responses to changing levels of steroid hormones during a 28-day time period. Human endocervical cells were grown on polystyrene scaffolds, and the morphologic and hormonal responses of cultured cells were assessed in response to fluctuating levels of estradiol (E2) or progesterone (P4). Morphologically, the 3D cultures were composed of a mixed population of cells, including epithelial and stromal cells. Treatment with E2 and P4 (d 28) increased cell growth and proliferation as compared with no treatment control. Cells expressed estrogen receptor and P4 receptor and produced both neutral and acidic mucins, including Mucin 16. In addition, a 45-plex Luminex assay identified numerous factors secreted and regulated by hormones. Specifically, IL-1β and leukemia inhibitory factor significantly decreased in the presence of E2 and P4 as compared with the no hormone control at day 26. Cotreatment with RU486 (mifepristone) attenuated the inhibition of IL-1β and leukemia inhibitory factor secretion. In summary, a robust, novel 3D endocervical culture was developed, and physiologic responses to the menstrual cycle mimic of E2 and P4 levels for a period of 28 days were identified.
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