Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Annually, 17.5 million of women and adolescent girls live with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). 1 The main route of HIV acquisition for women is through heterosexual transmission. 2 This means that the main line of defense for women against HIV is their innate immune system. However, both the female innate immune response and the female reproductive tract (FRT) are poorly understood. By studying the entirety of the innate immune response in the FRT, we can better develop preventative methods.

The epithelial cell barrier is the first obstacle that HIV must overcome to infect its host. Any rip or lesion within the epithelial cell barrier could became an entry way for HIV. Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are known to play a key role in the maintenance of epithelial cell wall integrity, especially when it becomes damaged. 3,4 Based on previous research, we believe that ILC3s are recruited by IL7 and CCL20 whenever there is a tear in the cell barrier. ILC3s then have the ability to repair these lesions. We hypothesize that FRT ILCs and epithelial cells have an intricate relationship where epithelial cells are able to secrete molecules, such as CCL20 and IL-7, that recruit and activate ILC3s. In this project, we strive to understand the intricate relationship of IL7, CCL20, and ILC3s more thoroughly and how they are able to protect the FRT from HIV acquisition.

Tissues from the endometrium, endocervix, and ectocervix of the FRT were collected via patient hysterectomies. After quantifying the qPCR data with n=3, we see that gene expression of IL7 and CLL20 indicate tissue dependency. Lower Ct values of IL7 and CCL20 are found in the ectocervix, which suggest that there are higher concentrations of IL7 and CCL20 in the ectocervix than the endocervix and endometrium. Additionally, because lower Ct values of IL7 and CCL20 are consistently detected in the ectocervix, it can also be concluded that these genes are tissue dependent.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.