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Chorioamnionitis is an acute inflammation of the gestational (extraplacental) membranes, most commonly caused by ascending microbial infection. It is associated with adverse neonatal outcomes including preterm birth, neonatal sepsis, and cerebral palsy. The decidua is the outermost layer of the gestational membranes and is likely an important initial site of contact with microbes during ascending infection. However, little is known about how decidual stromal cells (DSCs) respond to microbial threat. Defining the contributions of individual cell types to the complex medley of inflammatory signals during chorioamnionitis could lead to improved interventions aimed at halting this disease. We review available published data supporting the role for DSCs in responding to microbial infection, with a special focus on their expression of pattern recognition receptors and evidence of their responsiveness to pathogen sensing. While DSCs likely play an important role in sensing and responding to infection during the pathogenesis of chorioamnionitis, important knowledge gaps and areas for future research are highlighted.
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Biomarker, neuroimaging, and genetic findings implicate the serotonin transporter (SERT) in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Previously, we found that adult male mice expressing the autism-associated SERT Ala56 variant have altered central serotonin (5-HT) system function, as well as elevated peripheral blood 5-HT levels. Early in gestation, before midbrain 5-HT projections have reached the cortex, peripheral sources supply 5-HT to the forebrain, suggesting that altered maternal or placenta 5-HT system function could impact the developing embryo. We therefore used different combinations of maternal and embryo SERT Ala56 genotypes to examine effects on blood, placenta and embryo serotonin levels and neurodevelopment at embryonic day E14.5, when peripheral sources of 5-HT predominate, and E18.5, when midbrain 5-HT projections have reached the forebrain. Maternal SERT Ala56 genotype was associated with decreased placenta and embryonic forebrain 5-HT levels at E14.5. Low 5-HT in the placenta persisted, but forebrain levels normalized by E18.5. Maternal SERT Ala56 genotype effects on forebrain 5-HT levels were accompanied by a broadening of 5-HT-sensitive thalamocortical axon projections. In contrast, no effect of embryo genotype was seen in concepti from heterozygous dams. Blood 5-HT levels were dynamic across pregnancy and were increased in SERT Ala56 dams at E14.5. Placenta RNA sequencing data at E14.5 indicated substantial impact of maternal SERT Ala56 genotype, with alterations in immune and metabolic-related pathways. Collectively, these findings indicate that maternal SERT function impacts offspring placental 5-HT levels, forebrain 5-HT levels, and neurodevelopment.
While critical for normal development, the exact timing of establishment of the intestinal microbiome is unknown. For example, although preterm labor and birth have been associated with bacterial colonization of the amniotic cavity and fetal membranes for many years, the prevailing dogma of a sterile intrauterine environment during normal term pregnancies has been challenged more recently. While found to be a key contributor of evolution in the animal kingdom, maternal transmission of commensal bacteria may also constitute a critical process during healthy pregnancies in humans with yet unclear developmental importance. Metagenomic sequencing has elucidated a rich placental microbiome in normal term pregnancies likely providing important metabolic and immune contributions to the growing fetus. Conversely, an altered microbial composition during pregnancy may produce aberrant metabolites impairing fetal brain development and life-long neurological outcomes. Here we review the current understanding of microbial colonization at the feto-maternal interface and explain how normal gut colonization drives a balanced neonatal mucosal immune system, while dysbiosis contributes to aberrant immune function early in life and beyond. We discuss how maternal genetics, diet, medications, and probiotics inform the fetal microbiome in preparation for perinatal and postnatal bacterial colonization.
Selenoprotein P (Sepp1) is taken up by receptor-mediated endocytosis for its selenium. The other extracellular selenoprotein, glutathione peroxidase-3 (Gpx3), has not been shown to transport selenium. Mice with genetic alterations of Sepp1, the Sepp1 receptors apolipoprotein E receptor-2 (apoER2) and megalin, and Gpx3 were used to investigate maternal-fetal selenium transfer. Immunocytochemistry (ICC) showed receptor-independent uptake of Sepp1 and Gpx3 in the same vesicles of d-13 visceral yolk sac cells, suggesting uptake by pinocytosis. ICC also showed apoER2-mediated uptake of maternal Sepp1 in the d-18 placenta. Thus, two selenoprotein-dependent maternal-fetal selenium transfer mechanisms were identified. Selenium was quantified in d-18 fetuses with the mechanisms disrupted. Maternal Sepp1 deletion, which lowers maternal whole-body selenium, decreased fetal selenium under selenium-adequate conditions but deletion of fetal apoER2 did not. Fetal apoER2 deletion did decrease fetal selenium, by 51%, under selenium-deficient conditions, verifying function of the placental Sepp1-apoER2 mechanism. Maternal Gpx3 deletion decreased fetal selenium, by 13%, but only under selenium-deficient conditions. These findings indicate that the selenoprotein uptake mechanisms ensure selenium transfer to the fetus under selenium-deficient conditions. The failure of their disruptions (apoER2 deletion, Gpx3 deletion) to affect fetal selenium under selenium-adequate conditions indicates the existence of an additional maternal-fetal selenium transfer mechanism.
Intra-uterine growth restriction is an independent risk factor for adult psychiatric and cardiovascular diseases. In humans, intra-uterine growth restriction is associated with increased placental and fetal oxidative stress, as well as down-regulation of placental 11β-HSD (11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase). Decreased placental 11β-HSD activity increases fetal exposure to maternal glucocorticoids, further increasing fetal oxidative stress. To explore the developmental origins of co-morbid hypertension and anxiety disorders, we increased fetal glucocorticoid exposure by administering the 11β-HSD inhibitor CBX (carbenoxolone; 12 mg·kg-1 of body weight·day-1) during the final week of murine gestation. We hypothesized that maternal antioxidant (tempol throughout pregnancy) would block glucocorticoid-programmed anxiety, vascular dysfunction and hypertension. Anxiety-related behaviour (conditioned fear) and the haemodynamic response to stress were measured in adult mice. Maternal CBX administration significantly increased conditioned fear responses of adult females. Among the offspring of CBX-injected dams, maternal tempol markedly attenuated the behavioural and cardiovascular responses to psychological stress. Compared with offspring of undisturbed dams, male offspring of dams that received daily third trimester saline injections had increased stress-evoked pressure responses that were blocked by maternal tempol. In contrast, tempol did not block CBX-induced aortic dysfunction in female mice (measured by myography and lucigenin-enhanced chemiluminescence). We conclude that maternal stress and exaggerated fetal glucocorticoid exposure enhance sex-specific stress responses, as well as alterations in aortic reactivity. Because concurrent tempol attenuated conditioned fear and stress reactivity even among the offspring of saline-injected dams, we speculate that antenatal stressors programme offspring stress reactivity in a cycle that may be broken by antenatal antioxidant therapy.
Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) is thought to regulate neurodevelopmental processes through maternal-fetal interactions that have long-term mental health implications. It is thought that beyond fetal 5-HT neurons there are significant maternal contributions to fetal 5-HT during pregnancy but this has not been tested empirically. To examine putative central and peripheral sources of embryonic brain 5-HT, we used Pet1(-/-) (also called Fev) mice in which most dorsal raphe neurons lack 5-HT. We detected previously unknown differences in accumulation of 5-HT between the forebrain and hindbrain during early and late fetal stages, through an exogenous source of 5-HT which is not of maternal origin. Using additional genetic strategies, a new technology for studying placental biology ex vivo and direct manipulation of placental neosynthesis, we investigated the nature of this exogenous source. We uncovered a placental 5-HT synthetic pathway from a maternal tryptophan precursor in both mice and humans. This study reveals a new, direct role for placental metabolic pathways in modulating fetal brain development and indicates that maternal-placental-fetal interactions could underlie the pronounced impact of 5-HT on long-lasting mental health outcomes.
The effects of prenatal exposure to drugs on brain development are complex and are modulated by the timing, dose and route of drug exposure. It is difficult to assess these effects in clinical cohorts as these are beset with problems such as multiple exposures and difficulties in documenting use patterns. This can lead to misinterpretation of research findings by the general public, the media and policy makers, who may mistakenly assume that the legal status of a drug correlates with its biological impact on fetal brain development and long-term clinical outcomes. It is important to close the gap between what science tells us about the impact of prenatal drug exposure on the fetus and the mother and what we do programmatically with regard to at-risk populations.
The influence of maternally transmitted immunoglobulins on the development of autoimmune diabetes mellitus in genetically susceptible human progeny remains unknown. Given the presence of islet beta cell-reactive autoantibodies in prediabetic nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice, we abrogated the maternal transmission of such antibodies in order to assess their influence on the susceptibility of progeny to diabetes. First, we used B cell-deficient NOD mothers to eliminate the transmission of maternal immunoglobulins. In a complementary approach, we used immunoglobulin transgenic NOD mothers to exclude autoreactive specificities from the maternal B-cell repertoire. Finally, we implanted NOD embryos in pseudopregnant mothers of a non-autoimmune strain. The NOD progeny in all three groups were protected from spontaneous diabetes. These findings demonstrate that the maternal transmission of antibodies is a critical environmental parameter influencing the ontogeny of T cell-mediated destruction of islet beta cells in NOD mice. It will be important to definitively determine whether the transmission of maternal autoantibodies in humans affects diabetes progression in susceptible offspring.
OBJECTIVE - Our purpose was to measure any short-term effects that the transdermal nicotine replacement system may have in pregnancy and to verify salivary nicotine and cotinine levels during patch placement.
STUDY DESIGN - After customary smoking cessation efforts had failed, six prenatal patients between 28 and 37 weeks' gestation who smoked between one and two packs per day were enrolled in this prospective study. The patients were admitted to the General Clinical Research Center for a period of 21 hours. During hospitalization we performed maternal and fetal assessments including vital signs, biophysical profile and electronic fetal monitoring, amniotic fluid index, and umbilical artery Doppler examinations. Salivary samples for cotinine and nicotine levels were collected at standard intervals.
RESULTS - There were no measurable differences in fetal or maternal well-being. During patch use salivary nicotine levels increased as expected, to a mean value of 19.0 +/- 13.5 micrograms/L at 480 minutes. Salivary cotinine concentrations remained low (approximately 50 micrograms/L) and varied little during the 480-minute period that the patch was worn. Overall, patients were satisfied with the transdermal patches.
CONCLUSION - There were no adverse maternal or fetal effects from the transdermal nicotine replacement system over the 6-hour period. Salivary nicotine concentrations were consistent with those seen in nonpregnant adults. Surprisingly, salivary cotinine concentrations were much lower than those seen in smoking nonpregnant adults.