Vaginal epithelial dysfunction is mediated by the microbiome, metabolome, and mTOR signaling.


Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is characterized by depletion of Lactobacillus and overgrowth of anaerobic and facultative bacteria, leading to increased mucosal inflammation, epithelial disruption, and poor reproductive health outcomes. However, the molecular mediators contributing to vaginal epithelial dysfunction are poorly understood. Here we utilize proteomic, transcriptomic, and metabolomic analyses to characterize biological features underlying BV in 405 African women and explore functional mechanisms in vitro. We identify five major vaginal microbiome groups: L. crispatus (21%), L. iners (18%), Lactobacillus (9%), Gardnerella (30%), and polymicrobial (22%). Using multi-omics we show that BV-associated epithelial disruption and mucosal inflammation link to the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway and associate with Gardnerella, M. mulieris, and specific metabolites including imidazole propionate. Experiments in vitroconfirm that type strain G. vaginalis and M. mulieris supernatants and imidazole propionate directly affect epithelial barrier function and activation of mTOR pathways. These results find that the microbiome-mTOR axis is a central feature of epithelial dysfunction in BV.

ICB Affiliated Authors

Alicia R. Berard, Douglas K. Brubaker, Kenzie Birse, Alana Lamont, Romel D. Mackelprang, Laura Noël-Romas, Michelle Perner, Xuanlin Hou, Elizabeth Irungu, Nelly Mugo, Samantha Knodel, Timothy R. Muwonge, Elly Katabira, Sean M. Hughes, Claire Levy, Fernanda L. Calienes, Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Jared M. Baeten, Connie Celum, Florian Hladik, Jairam Lingappa, Adam D. Burgener
Peer-Reviewed Article
Cell Reports