bims-reprim Biomed News
on Reproductive immunology
Issue of 2020‒09‒27
twenty-one papers selected by
Iva Filipovic
Karolinska Institutet

  1. Front Immunol. 2020 ;11 1898
      Immune cells are critically involved in placental development and functioning, and inadequate regulation of the maternal immune system is associated with placental pathology and pregnancy complications. This study aimed to explore numbers of decidual immune cells in pregnancies complicated with fetal growth restriction (FGR) and stillbirth (SB), and in placentas with histopathological lesions: maternal vascular malperfusion (MVM), fetal vascular malperfusion (FVM), delayed villous maturation (DVM), chorioamnionitis (CA), and villitis of unknown etiology (VUE). Placental tissue from FGR (n = 250), SB (n = 64), and healthy pregnancies (n = 42) was included. Histopathological lesions were classified according to criteria developed by the Amsterdam Placental Workshop Group. Tissue slides were stained for CD68 (macrophages), CD206 (M2-like macrophages), CD3 (T cells), FOXP3 [regulatory T (Treg) cells], and CD56 [natural killer (NK) cells]. Cell numbers were analyzed in the decidua basalis using computerized morphometry. The Mann-Whitney U-test and Kruskal Wallis test with the Dunn's as post-hoc test were used for statistical analysis. Numbers of CD68+ macrophages were higher in FGR compared to healthy pregnancies (p < 0.001), accompanied by lower CD206+/CD68+ ratios (p < 0.01). In addition, in FGR higher numbers of FOXP3+ Treg cells were seen (p < 0.01) with elevated FOXP3+/CD3+ ratios (p < 0.01). Similarly, in SB elevated FOXP3+ Treg cells were found (p < 0.05) with a higher FOXP3+/CD3+ ratio (p < 0.01). Furthermore, a trend toward higher numbers of CD68+ macrophages was found (p < 0.1) in SB. Numbers of CD3+ and FOXP3+ cells were higher in placentas with VUE compared to placentas without lesions (p < 0.01 and p < 0.001), accompanied by higher FOXP3+/CD3+ ratios (p < 0.01). Elevated numbers of macrophages with a lower M2/total macrophage ratio in FGR suggest a role for a macrophage surplus in its pathogenesis and could specifically indicate involvement of inflammatory macrophages. Higher numbers of FOXP3+ Treg cells with higher Treg/total T cell ratios in VUE may be associated with impaired maternal-fetal tolerance and a compensatory response of Treg cells. The abundant presence of placental lesions in the FGR and SB cohorts might explain the increase of Treg/total T cell ratios in these groups. More functionality studies of the observed altered immune cell subsets are needed.
    Keywords:  fetal growth restriction; macrophage; natural killer cell; placental pathology; pregnancy; regulatory T cell; stillbirth
  2. Front Immunol. 2020 ;11 1788
      One of the main functions of the human placenta is to provide a barrier between the fetal and maternal blood circulations, where gas exchange and transfer of nutrients to the developing fetus take place. Despite being a barrier, there is a multitude of crosstalk between maternal immune cells and fetally derived semi-allogeneic trophoblast cells. Therefore, the maternal immune system has a difficult task to both tolerate the fetus but at the same time also defend the mother and the fetus from infections. Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are an increasingly recognized subset of T cells with anti-microbial functions that get activated in the context of non-polymorphic MR1 molecules, but also in response to inflammation. MAIT cells accumulate at term pregnancy in the maternal blood that flows into the intervillous space inside the placenta. Chemotactic factors produced by the placenta may be involved in recruiting and retaining particular immune cell subsets, including MAIT cells. In this Mini-Review, we describe what is known about MAIT cells during pregnancy and discuss the potential biological functions of MAIT cells at the fetal-maternal interface. Since MAIT cells have anti-microbial and tissue-repairing functions, but lack alloantigen reactivity, they could play an important role in protecting the fetus from bacterial infections and maintaining tissue homeostasis without risks of mediating harmful responses toward semi-allogenic fetal tissues.
    Keywords:  MAIT cells; decidua; intervillous blood; placenta; pregnancy
  3. Front Immunol. 2020 ;11 2025
      During pregnancy, various immune effectors and molecules participating in the immune-microenvironment establish specific maternal tolerance toward the semi-allogeneic fetus. Activated maternal immune effectors by the trophoblast antigens, such as T helper (Th), T cytotoxic (Tc), T regulatory (Treg), and B cells, are involved in the regulation of adaptive immunity. Recognition of active signal through the T cell receptors stimulate the differentiation of naive CD3+CD4+ T cells into specific T cell subsets, such as Th1, Th2, Th9, Th17, Th22, and follicular Th cells (Tfh). Each of these subsets has a significant and distinct role in human pregnancy. Th1 immunity, characterized by immune-inflammatory responses, becomes dominant during the peri-implantation period, and the "controlled" Th1 immunity benefits the invading trophoblasts rather than harm. Quickly after the placental implantation, the early inflammatory Th1 immunity is shifted to the Th2 anti-inflammatory immune responses. The predominant Th2 immunity, which overrules the Th1 immunity at the placental implantation site, protects a fetus by balancing Th1 immunity and accommodate fetal and placental development. Moreover, Treg and Th9 cells regulate local inflammatory immune responses, potentially detrimental to the fetus. Th17 cells induce protective immunity against extracellular microbes during pregnancy. However, excessive Th17 immunity may induce uncontrolled neutrophil infiltration at the maternal-fetal interface. Other Th cell subsets such as Tfh cells, also contribute to pregnancy by setting up favorable humoral immunity during pregnancy. However, dysregulation of Th cell immunity during pregnancy may result in obstetrical complications, such as recurrent pregnancy losses (RPL) and preeclampsia (PE). With this review, we intend to deliver a comprehensive overview of CD4+ Th cell subsets, including Th1, Th2, Th9, Th17, Th22, and Tfh cells, in human pregnancy by reviewing their roles in normal and pathological pregnancies.
    Keywords:  Th1 cell; Th17 cells; Th2 cells; Th22 cells; Th9 cells; pregnancy; recurrent pregnancy loss
  4. J Exp Med. 2021 Jan 04. pii: e20200649. [Epub ahead of print]218(1):
      The human placenta is a dynamic organ that modulates physiological adaptations to pregnancy. To define the immunological signature of the human placenta, we performed unbiased profiling of secreted immune factors from human chorionic villi isolated from placentas at mid and late stages of pregnancy. We show that placental trophoblasts constitutively secrete the inflammasome-associated cytokines IL-1β and IL-18, which is blocked by NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitors and occurs without detectable gasdermin D cleavage. We further show that placenta-derived IL-1β primes monocytes for inflammasome induction to protect against Listeria monocytogenes infection. Last, we show that the human placenta responds to L. monocytogenes infection through additional inflammasome activation and that inhibition of this pathway sensitizes villi to infection. Our results thus identify the inflammasome as an important mechanism by which the human placenta regulates systemic and local immunity during pregnancy to defend against L. monocytogenes infection.
  5. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Sep 21. pii: 202006905. [Epub ahead of print]
      Influenza A virus (IAV) infection during pregnancy causes severe maternal and perinatal complications, despite a lack of vertical transmission of IAV across the placenta. Here, we demonstrate a significant alteration in the maternal vascular landscape that underpins the maternal and downstream fetal pathology to IAV infection in mice. In IAV infection of nonpregnant mice, the local lung inflammatory response was contained to the lungs and was self-resolving, whereas in pregnant mice, virus dissemination to major maternal blood vessels, including the aorta, resulted in a peripheral "vascular storm," with elevated proinflammatory and antiviral mediators and the influx of Ly6Clow and Ly6Chigh monocytes, plus neutrophils and T cells. This vascular storm was associated with elevated levels of the adhesion molecules ICAM and VCAM and the pattern-recognition receptors TLR7 and TLR9 in the vascular wall, resulting in profound vascular dysfunction. The sequalae of this IAV-driven vascular storm included placental growth retardation and intrauterine growth restriction, evidence of placental and fetal brain hypoxia, and increased circulating cell free fetal DNA and soluble Flt1. In contrast, IAV infection in nonpregnant mice caused no obvious alterations in endothelial function or vascular inflammation. Therefore, IAV infection during pregnancy drives a significant systemic vascular alteration in pregnant dams, which likely suppresses critical blood flow to the placenta and fetus. This study in mice provides a fundamental mechanistic insight and a paradigm into how an immune response to a respiratory virus, such as IAV, is likely to specifically drive maternal and fetal pathologies during pregnancy.
    Keywords:  inflammation; influenza; pregnancy
  6. Biol Sex Differ. 2020 Sep 24. 11(1): 54
      BACKGROUND: The incidence of acute kidney injury (AKI) during pregnancy precedes a high maternal mortality rate of 20-40%. AKI during pregnancy has multiple etiologies; however, the more common are maternal hypertensive disorders, which include preeclampsia and HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzyme, low platelet) syndrome. Therefore, we sought to assess the impact of AKI on blood pressure, kidney injury, and anti-angiogenic factors during pregnancies with and without HELLP syndrome.METHODS: On gestational day (GD) 12, mini-osmotic pumps were inserted into a subset of normal pregnant (NP) rats infusing 4.7 μg/kg soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFlt-1) and 7 μg/kg soluble endoglin (sEng) to induce HELLP syndrome. On GD18, the renal pedicles were occluded for 45 min to induce AKI via bilateral ischemia reperfusion in a subset of NP (n = 18) or HELLP (n = 20) rats. Control NP (n = 20) and HELLP (n = 20) rats underwent a SHAM surgery on GD18. Plasma, urine, and maternal organs were saved for further analysis. Renal injury was assessed via renal histopathology, glomerular filtration rate (GFR), T cell infiltration, and assessment of kidney injury molecule-1 (KIM-1) and neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL). Data was measured via two-way analysis of variance with Tukey's test for post hoc analysis.
    RESULTS: Blood pressures were increased in HELLP+AKI rats (p = 0.0001); both NP+AKI and HELLP+AKI rats had increased lactate dehydrogenase (p < 0.0001) and aspartate aminotransferase levels (p < 0.0001), and decreased platelet levels (p < 0.001) vs. NP rats. HELLP+AKI (p = 0.002) and HELLP rats (p = 0.0002) had evidence of renal fibrosis vs. NP rats. GFR was decreased in HELLP+AKI (p = 0.01) rats vs. NP rats. Urinary KIM-1 was increased in NP+AKI rats vs. NP (p = 0.003) and HELLP rats (p = 0.01). HELLP+AKI rats had increased urinary KIM-1 vs. NP (p = 0.0008) and HELLP rats (p = 0.004) and increased NGAL vs. HELLP rats (p = 0.002). HELLP+AKI rats had increased sFlt-1 (p = 0.009) vs. NP rats. NP+AKI (p = 0.02) and HELLP+AKI (p = 0.007) rats had increased sEng vs. NP rats. CD3+CD4+ T cells were significantly increased in HELLP+AKI rats vs. NP (p = 0.0002) and NP+AKI (p = 0.05) rats. T regulatory cells were significantly decreased in HELLP+AKI (p = 0.03) and NP+AKI (p = 0.02) rats vs. NP rats; there were no changes between groups in T helper 17 cells (p = 0.34).
    CONCLUSION: The findings in this study suggest that AKI during pregnancy contributes to increased blood pressure and biochemical markers for HELLP syndrome, creates an anti-angiogenic imbalance, and exacerbates kidney injury as shown on histopathology, GFR, and kidney injury markers.
  7. Front Immunol. 2020 ;11 1571
      Decidualization is a process that involves phenotypic and functional changes of endometrial stromal cells to sustain endometrial receptivity and the participation of immunoregulatory factors to maintain immune homeostasis. In this context, tolerogenic dendritic cells (DCs) can induce regulatory T cells, which are essential to manage the pro- to anti-inflammatory transition during embryo implantation. Recently, Myeloid Regulatory Cells (MRCs) were proposed as immunosuppressants and tolerance-inducer cells, including the DC-10 subset. This novel and distinctive subset has the ability to produce IL-10 and to induce type 1 regulatory T cells (Tr1) through an HLA-G pathway. Here we focus on the impact of the decidualization process in conditioning peripheral monocytes to MRCs and the DC-10 subset, and their ability to induce regulatory T cells. An in vitro model of decidualization with the human endometrial stromal cell line (HESC), decidualized by medroxyprogesterone and dibutyryl-cAMP was used. Monocytes isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy women were cultured with rhGM-CSF + rhIL-4 and then, the effect of conditioned media from decidualized (Dec-CM) and non-decidualized cells (Non-dec-CM) was tested on monocyte cultures. We found that Dec-CM inhibited the differentiation to the CD1a+CD14- immature DC profile in a concentration-dependent manner. Dec-CM also significantly increased the frequency of CD83+CD86low and HLA-DR+ cells in the monocyte-derived culture. These markers, associated with the increased production of IL-10, are consistent with a MRCs tolerogenic profile. Interestingly, Dec-CM treatment displayed a higher expression of the characteristic markers of the tolerogenic DC-10 subset, HLA-G and ILT2/CD85j; while this modulation was not observed in cultures treated with Non-dec-CM. Moreover, when monocyte cultures with Dec-CM were challenged with LPS, they sustained a higher IL-10 production and prevented the increase of CD83, CD86, IL-12p70, and TNF-α expression. Finally, the DC-10 subset was able to induce a CD4+HLA-G+ regulatory T cells subset. These results suggest that the decidualization process might induce different subsets of MRCs, like DC-10, able to induce regulatory T cells as a novel CD4+HLA-G+ subset which might play an immunoregulatory role in embryo implantation.
    Keywords:  DC-10; HLA-G; decidualization; dendritic cells; immunomodulation; myeloid regulatory cells
  8. Sci Rep. 2020 Sep 24. 10(1): 15638
      1-2% of pregnancies are ectopic, the majority implanting in the Fallopian tube. A single, systemic dose of methotrexate, a DNA-synthesis (S phase) inhibitor, has been used since 1991 for outpatient treatment of women with stable EP. However, methotrexate has limited clinical and cost effectiveness, restricting its use to 25-30% of these women. There is an unmet need for better medical treatment for EP. Colony stimulating factor-1 (CSF-1) promotes placentation and creates a pro-inflammatory environment that is fundamental for the maintenance of a normal pregnancy. We hypothesised that CSF-1 is also involved in the placentation and maintenance of an EP. Herein, we demonstrate the immunolocalisation of the CSF-1 receptor (CSF-1R) as well as its ligand (CSF-1) in immortalised first trimester trophoblast cells. We show that a specific CSF-1R kinase inhibitor, GW2580, abolishes CSF-1 induced trophoblast cell proliferation and migration and can be cytotoxic. We then demonstrate the expression of CSF-1R and CSF-1 in the cytotrophoblast and syncytiotrophoblast within ectopic implantation sites from women with EP. Our data suggests that CSF-1 is involved in the survival and proliferation of trophoblast cells in EP. This suggests that pharmacological disruption of CSF-1/CSF-1R signaling axis could be the basis of a new therapeutic for EP.
  9. Front Immunol. 2020 ;11 2084
      The complement system plays a double role in pregnancy exerting both protective and damaging effects at placental level. Complement activation at fetal-maternal interface participates in protection against infectious agents and helps remove apoptotic and necrotic cells. Locally synthesized C1q contributes to the physiologic vascular remodeling of spiral arteries characterized by loss of smooth muscle cells and transformation into large dilated vessels. Complement activation triggered by the inflammatory process induced by embryo implantation can damage trophoblast and other decidual cells that may lead to pregnancy complications if the cells are not protected by the complement regulators CD55, CD46, and CD59 expressed on cell surface. However, uncontrolled complement activation induces placental alterations resulting in adverse pregnancy outcomes. This may occur in pathological conditions characterized by placental localization of complement fixing antibodies directed against beta2-glycoprotein 1, as in patients with anti-phospholipid syndrome, or circulating immune complexes deposited in placenta, as in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. In other diseases, such as preeclampsia, the mechanism of complement activation responsible for complement deposits in placenta is unclear. Conflicting results have been reported on the relevance of complement assays as diagnostic and prognostic tools to assess complement involvement in pregnant patients with these disorders.
    Keywords:  anti-phospholipid syndrome; complement; obstetric complications; pregnancy; systemic lupus erythematosus
  10. Biology (Basel). 2020 Sep 22. pii: E304. [Epub ahead of print]9(9):
      Preeclampsia (PE) is a serious hypertensive disorder of pregnancy characterized by abnormal placental development with an unknown etiology. To better understand which women will develop PE, a number of maternal risk factors have been identified, including obesity. Visceral white adipose tissue (WAT) contains inflammatory mediators that may contribute to PE. To explore this, we utilized the blood pressure high (BPH)/5 mouse model of superimposed PE that spontaneously recapitulates the maternal PE syndrome. We hypothesized that BPH/5 visceral WAT adjacent to the female reproductive tract (reproductive WAT) is a source of complement factors that contribute to the inflammatory milieu and angiogenic imbalance at the maternal-fetal interface in this model and in preeclamptic women. To test our hypothesis, we calorie-restricted BPH/5 females for two weeks prior to pregnancy and the first seven days of pregnancy, which attenuated complement component 3 (C3) but not complement factor B, nor complement factor D, (adipsin) in the reproductive WAT or the implantation site in BPH/5. Furthermore, calorie restriction during pregnancy restored vascular endothelial and placental growth factor mRNA levels in the BPH/5 implantation site. These data show maternal reproductive WAT may be a source of increased C3 during pregnancy, which is increased at the maternal-fetal interface in preeclamptic BPH/5 mice. It also suggests that calorie restriction could regulate inflammatory mediators thought to contribute to placental dysfunction in PE. Future studies are necessary to examine the effect of calorie restriction on C3 throughout pregnancy and the role of maternal obesity in PE.
    Keywords:  adiposity; complement; obesity; placenta; preeclampsia
  11. J Reprod Immunol. 2020 Sep 09. pii: S0165-0378(20)30127-3. [Epub ahead of print]142 103206
      Cytokine secretion by NK cells is abnormal in some women with recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL). Cytokine production is usually evaluated after stimulation with PMA and ionomycin. However, stimulation of uterine NK cells with semen corresponds more closely to physiological conditions at the time of conception. As seminal plasma has immunomodulatory properties, we aimed to elucidate compatibility between uterine NK cells and semen. Endometrial samples were stimulated with PMA/ionomycin, semen, seminal plasma, or spermatozoa. Thereafter, cytokine production by NK (CD56bright) cells was evaluated using flow cytometry and compared between women with and without a history of RPL associated with abnormal NK cell distribution in the endometrium or unexplained RPL. The ratios (%) of NK cells producing IFN-γ and TNF-α (NK1 phenotype), IL-4 (NK1/NK2 phenotype), and IL-10 (NK1/NKr1 phenotype) were significantly lower after stimulation with semen than with PMA/ionomycin (P < 0.01). After exposure to semen, ratios (%) of NK cells producing IL-4 and IL-10 in patients with unexplained RPL were significantly lower (P < 0.05), whereas those of NK1/NK2 and NK1/NKr1 were significantly higher (P < 0.01) than those in controls. The shift of endometrial NK cells to the NK2 phenotype was more pronounced when stimulated by semen than by PMA/ionomycin. However, a semen-induced shift to NK1 in women with unexplained RPL could induce miscarriage. Couple-specific immunological compatibility tests through semen stimulation in vitro might provide important information to avoid RPL.
    Keywords:  Endometrium; Immunological compatibility; NK cell; Semen; Spontaneous abortion
  12. J Reprod Immunol. 2020 Sep 14. pii: S0165-0378(20)30128-5. [Epub ahead of print]142 103207
      A unique endometrial immune reaction should occur to promote the human embryo implantation. We postulated that an immune disequilibrium may impact the initial dialogue between the mother and her embryo. In 2012, we set a method of uterine immune profiling for patients with unexplained repeated implantation failures (RIF). The method documents the local Th-1/ Th-2 equilibrium and the recruitment and state of maturation/activation of uNK cells. In function of the disequilibrium observed, personalization of assisted reproductive treatments was suggested. As the concept of personalization in function of the uterine immune profile had never been proposed, a large cohort study and a controlled cohort study were first conducted in RIF patients. 80 % of the RIF patients showed a local disequilibrium if compared to fertile controls. The local disequilibrium was identified in 3 categories: over-immune activation in 45 %, low- local immune activation in 25 % and mixed profile in 10 %. Personalization of treatments in function of the immune profile allowed to restore a live birth rate by 40 % at the following embryo transfer. RIF patients with endometriosis show some particularities regarding their immune profiles. We also suggested that immunotherapy (corticoids, intralipids) may have targeted indications based on a better understanding of the immune type of disequilibrium documented. Personalization of treatments for RIF patients seems to be essential to promote the subsequent live birth rate. The endometrial immune profiling is an innovative method aiming to detect a local immune disequilibrium and, if present, to test preventively its correction under treatment.
    Keywords:  Cytokines, pregnancy; IVF; Immunology, endometrium; Implantation failures
  13. Eur J Immunol. 2020 Sep 25.
      There was a significant correlation between uterine CD56+ cell density (high or normal) and ploidy status of the product of conception (euploid or aneuploid) in subsequent miscarriages in women with a history of recurrent miscarriage. Therefore, testing or treatment of high uterine CD56+ cell density is warranted in this cohort of women. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Keywords:  CD56+; Uterine; ploidy status; recurrent miscarriage
  14. Am J Reprod Immunol. 2020 Sep 24. e13352
      PROBLEM: Gestational membrane (GM) infection provokes inflammation and can result in preterm prelabor rupture of membranes (PPROM). The choriodecidual layer of the GM includes decidual stromal cells (DSC), cytotrophoblasts (CTB) and macrophages (Mφ). Our laboratory has previously shown that DSCs suppress Mφ TNFα production through secreted prostaglandin E2 . We hypothesized that CTBs would also inhibit Mφ cytokine expression through secreted mediators.METHOD OF STUDY: THP.1 Mφ-like cells with an NFκB reporter construct or human blood monocyte-derived Mφ were co-cultured with the Jeg3 CTB cell line or primary human CTBs and challenged with Group B Streptococcus (GBS) or Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists. Conditioned medium generated from CTB cultures was applied to Mφ cultures before infection or treatment. Alternatively, CTBs were co-incubated with, but physically separated from, Mφ and GBS or TLR-stimulated. NFκB was assessed via alkaline phosphatase assay and proinflammatory mediators were assessed by qRT-PCR and ELISA.
    RESULTS: CTBs suppressed GBS- or TLR-stimulated Mφ NFκB activity, TNFα and MMP9 production. Direct physical contact between CTBs and Mφ was required for full immunosuppression. Immunosuppression could be overcome by increasing the ratio of Mφ to CTB.
    CONCLUSIONS: CTBs limit Mφ NFκB activation and production of TNFα and MMP9 through an as-yet unknown, cell-to-cell contact-mediated mechanism. This suppression is distinct from the PGE2 -mediated Mφ TNFα suppression by DSC, suggesting that DSCs and CTBs regulate Mφ inflammation through distinct mechanisms. How Mφ integrate these signals in an intact GM will be paramount to determining causes and prevention of PPROM.
  15. Physiol Rev. 2020 Sep 24.
      There are many unknowns for pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinical experience of pregnancies complicated with infection by other coronaviruses e.g. SARS and MERS, has led to pregnant woman being considered potentially vulnerable to severe SARS-CoV-2 infection. Physiological changes during pregnancy have a significant impact on the immune system, respiratory system, cardiovascular function and coagulation. These may have positive or negative effects on COVID-19 disease progression. The impact of SARS-CoV-2 in pregnancy remains to be determined and a concerted, global effort is required to determine effects on implantation, fetal growth and development, labour and neonatal health. Asymptomatic infection presents a further challenge regarding service provision, prevention and management. As well as direct impacts of the disease, a plethora of indirect consequences of the pandemic will adversely affect maternal health including reduced access to reproductive health services, increased mental health strain and increased socioeconomic deprivation. In this review we explore the current knowledge of COVID-19 in pregnancy and signpost areas for further research to minimise its impact for women and their children.
    Keywords:  Coagulation response; Covid-19; Immunological response; Placental response; Pregnancy
  16. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2020 ;8 783
      Infection by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) results in the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19, which has posed a serious threat globally. Infection of SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy is associated with complications such as preterm labor and premature rupture of membranes, and a proportion of neonates born to infected mothers are also positive for the virus. During pregnancy, the placental barrier protects the fetus from pathogens and ensures healthy development. To predict if the placenta is permissive to SARS-CoV-2, we utilized publicly available single-cell RNA-seq data to identify if the placental cells express the necessary factors required for infection. SARS-CoV-2 binding receptor ACE2 and the S protein priming protease TMPRSS2 are co-expressed by a subset of syncytiotrophoblasts (STB) in the first trimester and extravillous trophoblasts (EVT) in the second trimester human placenta. In addition, the non-canonical receptor BSG/CD147 and other proteases (CTSL, CTSB, and FURIN) are detected in most of the placental cells. Other coronavirus family receptors (ANPEP and DPP4) were also expressed in the first and second trimester placental cells. Additionally, the term placenta of multiple species including humans expressed ACE2, DPP4, and ANPEP along with the viral S protein proteases. The ACE2- and TMPRSS2-positive (ACE2 + TMPRSS2 +) placental subsets expressed mRNA for proteins involved in viral budding and replication. These cells also had the mRNA for proteins that physically interact with SARS-CoV-2 in host cells. Further, we discovered unique signatures of genes in ACE2 + TMPRSS2 + STBs and EVTs. The ACE2 + TMPRSS2 + STBs are highly differentiated cells and express genes involving mitochondrial metabolism and glucose transport. The second trimester ACE2 + TMPRSS2 + EVTs are enriched for markers of endovascular trophoblasts. Both these subtypes abundantly expressed genes in the Toll-like receptor pathway. The second trimester EVTs are also enriched for components of the JAK-STAT pathway that drives inflammation. We carried out a systematic review and identified that in 12% of pregnant women with COVID-19, the placenta was infected with SARS-CoV-2, and the virus was detected in STBs. To conclude, herein we have uncovered the cellular targets for SARS-CoV-2 entry and have shown that these cells can potentially drive viremia in the developing human placenta. Our results provide a basic framework toward understanding the paraphernalia involved in SARS-CoV-2 infections in pregnancy.
    Keywords:  COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; coronaviruses; inflammation; placenta; receptors; single-cell RNA-seq; trophoblast
  17. Pathobiology. 2020 Sep 18. 1-9
      Since the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), there has been a debate whether pregnant women are at a specific risk for COVID-19 and whether it might be vertically transmittable through the placenta. We present a series of five placentas of SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-positive women who had been diagnosed with mild symptoms of COVID-19 or had been asymptomatic before birth. We provide a detailed histopathologic description of morphological changes accompanied by an analysis of presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the placental tissue. All placentas were term deliveries (40th and 41st gestational weeks). One SARS-CoV-2-positive patient presented with cough and dyspnoea. This placenta showed prominent lymphohistiocytic villitis and intervillositis and signs of maternal and foetal malperfusion. Viral RNA was present in both placenta tissue and the umbilical cord and could be visualized by in situ hybridization in the decidua. SARS-CoV-2 tests were negative at the time of delivery of 3/5 women, and their placentas did not show increased inflammatory infiltrates. Signs of maternal and/or foetal malperfusion were present in 100% and 40% of cases, respectively. There was no transplacental transmission to the infants. In our cohort, we can document different time points regarding SARS-CoV-2 infection. In acute COVID-19, prominent lymphohistiocytic villitis may occur and might potentially be attributable to SARS-CoV-2 infection of the placenta. Furthermore, there are histopathological signs of maternal and foetal malperfusion, which might have a relationship to an altered coagulative or microangiopathic state induced by SARS-CoV-2, yet this cannot be proven considering a plethora of confounding factors.
    Keywords:  COVID-19; Chronic villitis; Malperfusion; Placenta
  18. Am J Reprod Immunol. 2020 Sep 23. e13351
      SARS-CoV-2 infection and pregnancy has been the topic of hundreds of publications over the last several months, however, few studies have focused on the implications of infection in early pregnancy and reproductive tissues. Here we analyzed available evidence pertaining to SARS-CoV-2 infection, early pregnancy, and reproductive tissues. We searched PubMed and Embase databases in accordance with guidelines of Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) for publications from inception to June 4, 2020. Four reviewers screened titles and abstracts, and obtained full text articles for analysis. 62 studies were included in the review. Biological plausibility for infection with SARS-CoV-2 exists in testis, ovaries, and placenta as they express ACE2 receptor activity. In males, SARS-CoV-2 infection could lead to functional abnormalities leading to spermatogenic failure and male infertility. In females, an alteration of the ACE2 cascade via SARS-CoV-2 infection could lead to impairment in important follicular and luteal processes. There is also evidence of significant placental pathology in SARS-CoV-2 infection, but it is unclear what effects there may be for early pregnancy, though available data suggest less severe effects compared to other respiratory virus outbreaks. Further investigation is needed regarding SARS-CoV-2 in reproductive function and early pregnancy.
    Keywords:  COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; early pregnancy; ovaries; placenta; sperm; testes
  19. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Sep 21. pii: S0002-9378(20)31101-7. [Epub ahead of print]