Discipline: Biological Sciences
Subcategory: Cell and Molecular Biology
Ninon Becquart - Willamette University
Co-Author(s): Margaret Takeda, Akraporn Prakobphol, Susan Fisher, and Karen McCune-Smith, University of California San Francisco Emma Coddington, Willamette University, Salem OR
The vast majority of sexually experienced women in the United States have used contraceptives at some point in their lives, and a substantial amount of these women have, or are, using contraceptives containing progestin, a synthetic hormone. Progestin partly prevents pregnancy by somehow causing changes in cervical mucus, such as increasing its viscosity so that it is hostile to sperm. The composition of cervical mucus is of scientific interest because the amount of different structural proteins present in mucus likely changes depending on the stage of the menstrual cycle, and is still poorly understood, partly because mucus and its primary structural protein mucin is difficult to collect. Currently, the methods with which we compare favorable and unfavorable mucus are limited to collections from individual women and only involve examination of gross features of mucus by hand including viscosity, ferning, and the ability of sperm to travel through a tube of collected mucus. In order to better study cervical mucus protein mucin, and subsequently, better determine both contraceptive efficacy and the biochemical changes that occur with hormones, this pilot study aimed to develop human cervical cell cultures to test the working hypothesis that cultured cells were capable of producing mucins in vitro, and that these mucins are hormonally regulated. Endocervical, ectocervical and vaginal cell lines were cultured in serum-free media. The cultures were bathed in the following hormone treatments for 24 and 96 hours: estrogen only, progestin only, both estrogen and progestin, ethanol vehicle and media change as negative controls. Media was collected after treatment and compared to mucus samples from participants using Western blot and lectins, or antibodies to mucins. We have found compelling evidence that cervical cell lines are culturable and do produce mucins under these conditions. These findings will lead to more extensive studies developing our in vitro system and ultimately enhance our understanding of the biochemical changes of the cervix that occur with hormones.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): National Science Foundation Career Award, Willamette University Presidential Award
Faculty Advisor: Emma Coddington,