Sensing the enemy, containing the threat: cell-autonomous immunity toChlamydia trachomatis

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Abstract

The bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis is the etiological agent of the most common sexually transmitted infection in North America and Europe. Medical complications resulting from genital C. trachomatis infections arise predominantly in women where the initial infections often remain asymptomatic and thus unrecognized. Untreated asymptomatic infections in women can ascend into the upper genital tract and establish persistence, ultimately resulting in extensive scarring of the reproductive organs, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancies. Previously resolved C. trachomatis infections fail to provide protective immune memory, and no effective vaccine against C. trachomatis is currently available. Critical determinants of the pathogenesis and immunogenicity of genital C. trachomatis infections are cell-autonomous immune responses. Cell-autonomous immunity describes the ability of an individual host cell to launch intrinsic immune circuits that execute the detection, containment and elimination of cell-invading pathogens. As an obligate intracellular pathogen C. trachomatis is constantly under attack by cell-intrinsic host defenses. Accordingly, C. trachomatis evolved to subvert and co-opt cell-autonomous immune pathways. This review will provide a critical summary of our current understanding of cell-autonomous immunity to C. trachomatis and its role in shaping host resistance, inflammation and adaptive immunity to genital C. trachomatis infections.

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