Expression of Natural Antimicrobials by Human Placenta and Fetal Membranes Academic Article uri icon

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  • Preterm birth associated with infection is a major clinical problem. We hypothesized that this condition is associated with altered expression of natural antimicrobial molecules (beta-defensins (HBD), elafin). Therefore, we examined expression of these molecules and their regulation by proinflammatory cytokines in placentae and fetal membranes from term pregnancy. HBD1-3 and elafin were localized by immunohistochemistry in fetal membranes and placenta. Real-time quantitative PCR was used to examine mRNA expression in primary trophoblast cells treated with inflammatory molecules. HBD1-3 and elafin were immunolocalized to placental and chorion trophoblast layers of fetal membranes and placenta. Immunoreactivity was also observed in amnion epithelium and decidua. No differences were noted between samples from women who were not in labour compared to those in active labour. In in vitro cultures of primary trophoblast cells, HBD2 and elafin mRNA expression was upregulated by the proinflammatory cytokine, IL-1beta. These results suggest that the chorion and placental trophoblast layers may be key barriers to the progression of infection in the pregnant uterus. Natural antimicrobial expression may be altered in response to inflammatory mediator expression associated with the onset of labour and/or uterine infection, providing increased protection when the uterus may be particularly susceptible to infection.


  • King, AE
  • Paltoo, Aarti
  • Kelly, RW
  • Sallenave, J-M
  • Bocking, AD
  • Challis, JRG

publication date

  • February 2007