A Pilot Proteomic Study of Vestibular Fluid From Patients With Vulvodynia

Colin MacNeill, Todd Umstead, Debra Shearer, Judith Weisz, David S. Phelps, Joanna Floros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: Many women are affected by vulvodynia, but medical therapies to date have proven ineffective. We performed a pilot study using gel-based proteomics to develop a map of proteins present in vaginal/vestibular secretions and identify proteins that could be considered for future evaluation as potential therapeutic targets. Materials and Methods: We collected vestibular fluid from 4 controls and 4 patients with vulvodynia by placing a cotton swab in the vestibule and extracting the absorbed proteins. The proteins underwent 2-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry to develop a protein map. Immunohistochemistry was used to validate proteomic findings. Results: A map was constructed of 32 of the more abundant proteins in vestibular fluid and their levels compared in control subjects and vulvodynia patients. Among these were annexin A1, interleukin 1 receptor antagonist, protein S100 A9, and a number of antiproteases and proteases. Many of these proteins differed by at least 50% between groups, but only annexin A1, one of the protease inhibitors, and immunoglobulin G κ chain were significantly different. The results with annexin A1 were validated by similar findings with immunohistochemistry. Conclusions: The findings of this pilot study demonstrate a set of vestibule mucosa proteins that differ significantly - either increasing or decreasing - in vulvodynia patients compared with controls, and several others that exhibited greater than 1.5-fold change but did not reach statistical significance. This study constitutes a proof-of-principle that an open, unbiased proteomic approach can identify molecular participants in vulvodynia, some of which had not been identified to date by hypothesis-driven studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-175
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Lower Genital Tract Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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