The inhibition of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 activity by crude and purified human pregnancy plug mucus and mucins in an inhibition assay
Background: The female reproductive tract is amongst the main routes for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) transmission. Cervical mucus however is known to protect the female reproductive tract from bacterial invasion and fluid loss and regulates and facilitates sperm transport to the upper reproductive tract. The purpose of this study was to purify and characterize pregnancy plug mucins and determine their anti-HIV-1 activity in an HIV inhibition assay. Methods: Pregnancy plug mucins were purified by caesium chloride density-gradient ultra-centrifugation and characterized by Western blotting analysis. The anti-HIV-1 activities of the crude pregnancy plug mucus and purified pregnancy plug mucins was determined by incubating them with HIV-1 prior to infection of the human T lymphoblastoid cell line (CEM SS cells). Results: The pregnancy plug mucus had MUC1, MUC2, MUC5AC and MUC5B. The HIV inhibition assay revealed that while the purified pregnancy plug mucins inhibit HIV-1 activity by approximately 97.5%, the crude pregnancy plug mucus failed to inhibit HIV-1 activity. Conclusion: Although it is not clear why the crude sample did not inhibit HIV-1 activity, it may be that the amount of mucins in the crude pregnancy plug mucus (which contains water, mucins, lipids, nucleic acids, lactoferrin, lysozyme, immunoglobulins and ions), is insufficient to cause viral inhibition or aggregation.