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INTRODUCTION - Metabolic stress (e.g., gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and obesity) and infections are common during pregnancy, impacting fetal development and the health of offspring. Such antenatal stresses can differentially impact male and female offspring. We sought to determine how metabolic stress and maternal immune activation (MIA), either alone or in combination, alters inflammatory gene expression within the placenta and whether the effects exhibited sexual dimorphism.
METHODS - Female C57BL/6 J mice were fed a normal diet or a high fat diet for 6 weeks prior to mating, with the latter diet inducing a GDM phenotype during pregnancy. Dams within each diet group at gestational day (GD) 12.5 received either an intraperitoneal injection of the viral mimic, polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly(I:C)) or saline. Three hours post injection; placentae were collected and analyzed for changes in the expression of 248 unique immune genes.
RESULTS - Placental immune gene expression was significantly altered by GDM, MIA and the combination of the two (GDM+MIA). mRNA expression was generally lower in placentae of mice exposed to GDM alone compared with the other experimental groups, while mice exposed to MIA exhibited the highest transcript levels. Notably, fetal/placental sex influenced the responses of many immune genes to both metabolic and inflammatory stress.
DISCUSSION - GDM and MIA provoke inflammatory responses within the placenta and such effects exhibit sexual dimorphism. The combination of these stressors impacts the placenta differently than either condition alone. These findings may help explain sexual dimorphism observed in adverse pregnancy outcomes in human offspring exposed to similar stressors.
Copyright © 2019. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Placental dysfunction is implicated in many pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia and preterm birth (PTB). While both these syndromes are influenced by environmental risk factors, they also have a substantial genetic component that is not well understood. Precisely controlled gene expression during development is crucial to proper placental function and often mediated through gene regulatory enhancers. However, we lack accurate maps of placental enhancer activity due to the challenges of assaying the placenta and the difficulty of comprehensively identifying enhancers. To address the gap in our knowledge of gene regulatory elements in the placenta, we used a two-step machine learning pipeline to synthesize existing functional genomics studies, transcription factor (TF) binding patterns, and evolutionary information to predict placental enhancers. The trained classifiers accurately distinguish enhancers from the genomic background and placental enhancers from enhancers active in other tissues. Genomic features collected from tissues and cell lines involved in pregnancy are the most predictive of placental regulatory activity. Applying the classifiers genome-wide enabled us to create a map of 33,010 predicted placental enhancers, including 4,562 high-confidence enhancer predictions. The genome-wide placental enhancers are significantly enriched nearby genes associated with placental development and birth disorders and for SNPs associated with gestational age. These genome-wide predicted placental enhancers provide candidate regions for further testing in vitro, will assist in guiding future studies of genetic associations with pregnancy phenotypes, and aid interpretation of potential mechanisms of action for variants found through genetic studies.
The time between arrest of pregnancy development and miscarriage represents a window in which the pregnancy is nonviable and not developing. In effect, the pregnancy loss has already occurred, and additional exposure cannot influence its outcome. However, epidemiologic studies of miscarriage traditionally use gestational age at miscarriage (GAM) to assign time in survival analyses, which overestimates duration of exposure and time at risk. In Right From the Start, a pregnancy cohort study (2000-2012), we characterized the gap between estimated gestational age at arrest of development (GAAD) and miscarriage using transvaginal ultrasound in 500 women recruited from 3 states (North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas). We compared effect estimates from models using GAAD with GAM to assign time at risk through a simulation study of several exposure patterns with varying effect sizes. The median gap between GAAD and miscarriage was 23 days (interquartile range, 15-32). Use of GAAD decreased the bias and variance of the estimated association for time-varying exposures, whereas half the time using GAM led to estimates that differed from the true effect by more than 20%. Using GAAD to assign time at risk should result in more accurate and consistent characterization of miscarriage risk associated with time-varying exposures.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sustained expression of the MAFB transcription factor in human islet β-cells represents a distinct difference in mice. Moreover, mRNA expression of closely related and islet β-cell-enriched MAFA does not peak in humans until after 9 years of age. We show that the MAFA protein also is weakly produced within the juvenile human islet β-cell population and that expression is postnatally restricted in mouse β-cells by de novo DNA methylation. To gain insight into how MAFB affects human β-cells, we developed a mouse model to ectopically express in adult mouse β-cells using transcriptional control sequences. Coexpression of MafB with MafA had no overt impact on mouse β-cells, suggesting that the human adult β-cell MAFA/MAFB heterodimer is functionally equivalent to the mouse MafA homodimer. However, MafB alone was unable to rescue the islet β-cell defects in a mouse mutant lacking MafA in β-cells. Of note, transgenic production of MafB in β-cells elevated tryptophan hydroxylase 1 mRNA production during pregnancy, which drives the serotonin biosynthesis critical for adaptive maternal β-cell responses. Together, these studies provide novel insight into the role of MAFB in human islet β-cells.
© 2018 by the American Diabetes Association.
A fiber optic probe-based Raman spectroscopy system using a single laser module with two excitation wavelengths, at 680 and 785 nm, has been developed for measuring the fingerprint and high wavenumber regions using a single detector. This system is simpler and less expensive than previously reported configurations of combined fingerprint and high wavenumber Raman systems, and its probe-based implementation facilitates numerous in vivo applications. The high wavenumber region of the Raman spectrum ranges from 2800-3800 cm-1 and contains valuable information corresponding to the molecular vibrations of proteins, lipids, and water, which is complimentary to the biochemical signatures found in the fingerprint region (800-1800 cm-1), which probes DNA, lipids, and proteins. The efficacy of the system is demonstrated by tracking changes in water content in tissue-mimicking phantoms, where Voigtian decomposition of the high wavenumber water peak revealed a correlation between the water content and type of water-tissue interactions in the samples. This dual wavelength system was then used for in vivo assessment of cervical remodeling during mouse pregnancy, a physiologic process with known changes in tissue hydration. The system shows that Raman spectroscopy is sensitive to changes in collagen content in the fingerprint region and hydration state in the high wavenumber region, which was verified using an ex vivo comparison of wet and dry weight. Simultaneous fingerprint and high wavenumber Raman spectroscopy will allow precise in vivo quantification of tissue water content in the high wavenumber region, paired with the high biochemical specificity of the fingerprint region.
OBJECTIVE - Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the most common surgical emergency in preterm infants, and pathogenesis associates with changes in the fecal microbiome. As fecal samples incompletely represent microbial communities in intestinal mucosa, we sought to determine the NEC tissue-specific microbiome and assess its contribution to pathogenesis.
DESIGN - We amplified and sequenced the V1-V3 hypervariable region of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene extracted from intestinal tissue and corresponding fecal samples from 12 surgical patients with NEC and 14 surgical patients without NEC. Low quality and non-bacterial sequences were removed, and taxonomic assignment was made with the Ribosomal Database Project. Operational taxonomic units were clustered at 97%. We tested for differences between NEC and non-NEC samples in microbiome alpha- and beta-diversity and differential abundance of specific taxa between NEC and non-NEC samples. Additional analyses were performed to assess the contribution of other demographic and environmental confounding factors on the infant tissue and fecal microbiome.
RESULTS - The fecal and tissue microbial communities were different. NEC was associated with a distinct microbiome, which was characterized by low diversity, higher abundances of Staphylococcus and Clostridium_sensu_stricto, and lower abundances of Actinomyces and Corynebacterium. Infant age and vancomycin exposure correlated with shifts in the tissue microbiome.
CONCLUSION - The observed low diversity in NEC tissues suggests that NEC is associated with a bacterial bloom and a distinct mucosal bacterial community. The exact bacterial species that constitute the bloom varied by infant and were strongly influenced by age and exposure to vancomycin.
During the dermal wound healing process, the mechanical rigidity of the newly deposited extracellular matrix and transforming growth factor-β1 promote the transition of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts. Myofibroblasts generate large cellular forces that contract and remodel the extracellular matrix leading to scar formation. In contrast, myofibroblasts are not detected in fetal dermal wounds which are more compliant and contain less transforming growth factor-β1 than adult wounds. Instead, fetal fibroblasts orchestrate scarless healing of dermal wounds resulting in healed tissues that resemble uninjured dermis. While these biomechanical differences suggest that the fetal wound environment promotes smaller cellular forces which enable regeneration, previous studies indicate that fetal fibroblasts have unique contractile properties that may facilitate scarless dermal repair. Therefore, we tested whether physiologic wound rigidities and transforming growth factor-β1 induce contractile forces and myofibroblast differentiation of fetal dermal fibroblasts. In comparison to their adult dermal counterparts, we found that fetal fibroblasts exhibit a deficient contractile response to rigid extracellular matrix and transforming growth factor-β1. Our data suggest that the contractile phenotype of fetal dermal fibroblasts limits their cellular force production and prevents their ability to differentiate into myofibroblasts.
© 2018 The Authors. Wound Repair and Regeneration published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of by the Wound Healing Society.
Preterm birth (PTB) is the leading cause of neonatal death, however, accurate prediction methods do not exist. Detection of early changes in the cervix, an organ that biochemically remodels to deliver the fetus, has potential to predict PTB risk. Researchers have employed light-based methods to monitor biochemical changes in the cervix during pregnancy, however, these approaches required patients to undergo a speculum examination which many patients find uncomfortable and is not standard practice during prenatal care. Herein, a visually guided optical probe is presented that measures the cervix via introduction by bimanual examination, a procedure that is commonly performed during prenatal visits and labor for tactile monitoring of the cervix. The device incorporates a Raman spectroscopy probe for biochemical monitoring and a camera for visualizing measurement location to ensure it is void of cervical mucus and blood. This probe was tested in 15 patients receiving obstetric and gynecological care, and results acquired with and without a speculum revealed similar spectra, demonstrating that the visually guided probe conserved data quality. Additionally, the majority of patients reported reduced discomfort from the device. In summary, the visual guidance probe successfully measured the cervix while integrating with standard prenatal care, reducing a barrier in clinical translation.
© 2018 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.
BACKGROUND - Transmaternal exposure to tobacco, microbes, nutrients, and other environmental factors shapes the fetal immune system through epigenetic processes. The gastric microbe Helicobacter pylori represents an ancestral constituent of the human microbiota that causes gastric disorders on the one hand and is inversely associated with allergies and chronic inflammatory conditions on the other.
OBJECTIVE - Here we investigate the consequences of transmaternal exposure to H pylori in utero and/or during lactation for susceptibility to viral and bacterial infection, predisposition to allergic airway inflammation, and development of immune cell populations in the lungs and lymphoid organs.
METHODS - We use experimental models of house dust mite- or ovalbumin-induced airway inflammation and influenza A virus or Citrobacter rodentium infection along with metagenomics analyses, multicolor flow cytometry, and bisulfite pyrosequencing, to study the effects of H pylori on allergy severity and immunologic and microbiome correlates thereof.
RESULTS - Perinatal exposure to H pylori extract or its immunomodulator vacuolating cytotoxin confers robust protective effects against allergic airway inflammation not only in first- but also second-generation offspring but does not increase susceptibility to viral or bacterial infection. Immune correlates of allergy protection include skewing of regulatory over effector T cells, expansion of regulatory T-cell subsets expressing CXCR3 or retinoic acid-related orphan receptor γt, and demethylation of the forkhead box P3 (FOXP3) locus. The composition and diversity of the gastrointestinal microbiota is measurably affected by perinatal H pylori exposure.
CONCLUSION - We conclude that exposure to H pylori has consequences not only for the carrier but also for subsequent generations that can be exploited for interventional purposes.
Copyright © 2018 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Experimental studies indicate that perinatal light exposure has enduring effects on affective behaviors in rodents; however, insufficient research has explored this hypothesis in humans. We examined photoperiod (i.e., day length) metrics during maternal pregnancy in relation to lifetime depression in the longitudinal Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and NHS II. 160,723 participants reported birth date and birth state (used to derive daily photoperiod based on published mathematical equations), and clinician-diagnosed depression and antidepressant use throughout adulthood. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) (and 95% confidence intervals [CI]) for depression (defined as clinician diagnosis and antidepressant use) across quintiles of two exposures during maternal pregnancy: 1) total photoperiod (total number of daylight hours) and 2) differences between minimum/maximum photoperiod; each trimester of pregnancy was examined separately. Total photoperiod during maternal pregnancy was not associated with depression overall or by trimester of pregnancy. However, larger differences between minimum/maximum photoperiod during maternal pregnancy were related to lower odds of depression (multivariable [MV]-adjusted OR: 0.86, 95% CI: 0.83, 0.90 comparing extreme quintiles of exposure; p-trend<0.0001); this association appeared specific to the second trimester of pregnancy (MV-adjusted p-trends = 0.03, <0.0001, and 0.3 across the three trimesters, respectively). In addition, birth at higher latitude (where larger differences in minimum/maximum photoperiod exist) was associated with a significant reduction in the lifetime risk of depression. These findings are consistent with an emerging hypothesis in which perinatal light exposure may influence risk of depression, and they might be understood through the conceptual framework of adaptive developmental plasticity.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.