Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jennifer Hall

Committee Members

Robert Schoborg, Mike Kruppa, Doug Thewke, Valentin Yakubenko


Chlamydia is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States and worldwide. It often goes unnoticed due to lack of symptoms and left untreated it can ascend the female genital tract to cause sequelae like pelvic inflammatory disease and irreversible tubal infertility. In reproductive-aged women, female sex hormones estrogen (E2) and progesterone (P4) concentrations fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and are influenced by hormonal contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. E2 and P4 influence genital Chlamydia infection in women and mice, but these multifactorial interactions are not entirely mapped out. The complex interplay of E2 and P4 with Chlamydia and the host response demand further study to determine the effect of hormonal environment and host susceptibility to Chlamydia.

E2 primarily signals through estrogen receptors (ER) ERα and ERβ. We used ERα or ERβ knockout (KO) mice to study the role of E2 and ERs in chlamydial progression and examined the host immune response at day 9 post-infection, when we expected the immune response to be the most robust. ERαKO, but not ERβKO mice had significant differences in the progression of Chlamydia and the host immune response. Future studies should test the immune response at additional timepoints, and a model should be utilized wherein ERα and ERβ are simultaneously silenced by chemical knockdown of ERβ in ERα knockout mice using ER agonist ICI 182, 680. 3 Mice are widely used in Chlamydia research, but due to its short estrus cycle, infection cannot be established naturally before infected cells are shed. To overcome this, mice are pretreated with depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), an exogenous progesterone that halts the estrus cycle. However, a mouse model not reliant on DMPA pretreatment is needed because 1.) DMPA can affect the immune response and 2.) the hormonal environment in women is not static. Our model uses mice that are ovariectomized to stop the production of endogenous E2 and P4, then treated with physiologically relevant levels of E2 and P4 via implantation of a hormone-filled capsule. We observed that E2 protected mice from Chlamydia, making our model a good alternative for in vivo Chlamydia studies.

Document Type

Dissertation - embargo


Copyright by the authors.