Placental extracellular vesicles–associated microRNA-519c mediates endotoxin adaptation in pregnancy

Caterina Tiozzo, Mark Bustoros, Xinhua Lin, Claudia Manzano De Mejia, Ellen Gurzenda, Martin Chavez, Iman Hanna, Paola Aguiari, Laura Perin, Nazeeh Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Pregnancy represents a unique challenge for the maternal-fetal immune interface, requiring a balance between immunosuppression, which is essential for the maintenance of a semiallogeneic fetus, and proinflammatory host defense to protect the maternal-fetal interface from invading organisms. Adaptation to repeated inflammatory stimuli (endotoxin tolerance) may be critical in preventing inflammation-induced preterm birth caused by exaggerated maternal inflammatory responses to mild or moderate infections that are common during pregnancy. However, the exact mechanisms contributing to the maintenance of tolerance to repeated infections are not completely understood. MicroRNAs play important roles in pregnancy with several microRNAs implicated in gestational tissue function and in pathologic pregnancy conditions. MicroRNA-519c, a member of the chromosome 19 microRNA cluster, is a human-specific microRNA mainly expressed in the placenta. However, its role in pregnancy is largely unknown. Objective: This study aimed to explore the role of “endotoxin tolerance” failure in the pathogenesis of an exaggerated inflammatory response often seen in inflammation-mediated preterm birth. In this study, we investigated the role of microRNA-519c, a placenta-specific microRNA, as a key regulator of endotoxin tolerance at the maternal-fetal interface. Study Design: Using a placental explant culture system, samples from term and second-trimester placentas were treated with lipopolysaccharide. After 24 hours, the conditioned media were collected for analysis, and the placental explants were re-exposed to repeated doses of lipopolysaccharide for 3 days. The supernatant was analyzed for inflammatory markers, the presence of extracellular vesicles, and microRNAs. To study the possible mechanism of action of the microRNAs, we evaluated the phosphodiesterase 3B pathway involved in tumor necrosis factor alpha production using a microRNA mimic and phosphodiesterase 3B small interfering RNA transfection. Finally, we analyzed human placental samples from different gestational ages and from women affected by inflammation-associated pregnancies. Results: Our data showed that repeated exposure of the human placenta to endotoxin challenges induced a tolerant phenotype characterized by decreased tumor necrosis factor alpha and up-regulated interleukin-10 levels. This reaction was mediated by the placenta-specific microRNA-519c packaged within placental extracellular vesicles. Lipopolysaccharide treatment increased the extracellular vesicles that were positive for the exosome tetraspanin markers, namely CD9, CD63, and CD81, and secreted primarily by trophoblasts. Primary human trophoblast cells transfected with a microRNA-519c mimic decreased phosphodiesterase 3B, whereas a lack of phosphodiesterase 3B, achieved by small interfering RNA transfection, led to decreased tumor necrosis factor alpha production. These data support the hypothesis that the anti-inflammatory action of microRNA-519c was mediated by a down-regulation of the phosphodiesterase 3B pathway, leading to inhibition of tumor necrosis factor alpha production. Furthermore, human placentas from normal and inflammation-associated pregnancies demonstrated that a decreased placental microRNA-519c level was linked to infection-induced inflammatory pathologies during pregnancy. Conclusion: We identified microRNA-519c, a human placenta-specific microRNA, as a novel regulator of immune adaptation associated with infection-induced preterm birth at the maternal-fetal interface. Our study serves as a basis for future experiments to explore the potential use of microRNA-519c as a biomarker for infection-induced preterm birth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681.e1-681.e20
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • endotoxin tolerance
  • extracellular vesicles
  • inflammation
  • microRNA
  • preterm birth


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