Edfeldt G, Kaldhusdal V, Czarnewski P, Bradley F, Bergström S, Lajoie J, Xu J, Månberg A, Kimani J, Oyugi J, Nilsson P, Tjernlund A, Fowke KR, Kwon DS, Broliden K
Microbiome 11 (1) 67 [2023-03-31; online 2023-03-31]
The majority of studies characterizing female genital tract microbiota have focused on luminal organisms, while the presence and impact of tissue-adherent ectocervical microbiota remain incompletely understood. Studies of luminal and tissue-associated bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract suggest that these communities may have distinct roles in health and disease. Here, we performed a multi-omics characterization of paired luminal and tissue samples collected from a cohort of Kenyan female sex workers. We identified a tissue-adherent bacterial microbiome, with a higher alpha diversity than the luminal microbiome, in which dominant genera overall included Gardnerella and Lactobacillus, followed by Prevotella, Atopobium, and Sneathia. About half of the L. iners-dominated luminal samples had a corresponding Gardnerella-dominated tissue microbiome. Broadly, the tissue-adherent microbiome was associated with fewer differentially expressed host genes than the luminal microbiome. Gene set enrichment analysis revealed that L. crispatus-dominated tissue-adherent communities were associated with protein translation and antimicrobial activity, whereas a highly diverse microbial community was associated with epithelial remodeling and pro-inflammatory pathways. Tissue-adherent communities dominated by L. iners and Gardnerella were associated with lower host transcriptional activity. Tissue-adherent microbiomes dominated by Lactobacillus and Gardnerella correlated with host protein profiles associated with epithelial barrier stability, although with a more pro-inflammatory profile for the Gardnerella-dominated microbiome group. Tissue samples with a highly diverse composition had a protein profile representing cell proliferation and pro-inflammatory activity. We identified ectocervical tissue-adherent bacterial communities in all study participants of a female sex worker cohort. These communities were distinct from cervicovaginal luminal microbiota in a significant proportion of individuals. We further revealed that bacterial communities at both sites correlated with distinct host gene expression and protein levels. The tissue-adherent bacterial community could possibly act as a reservoir that seed the lumen with less optimal, non-Lactobacillus, bacteria. Video Abstract.