Circulating Placental Vesicles Carry HLA-DR in Pre-Eclampsia: A New Potential Marker of the Syndrome

Chiara Tersigni, Donatella Lucchetti, Rita Franco, Filomena Colella, Caterina Neri, Laura Crispino, Alessandro Sgambato, Antonio Lanzone, Giovanni Scambia, Manu Vatish, Nicoletta Di Simone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Pre-eclampsia (PE) is a common disorder of pregnancy that usually presents with hypertension and proteinuria. The clinical presentation arises from soluble factors released into the maternal circulation from the placenta owing to the stress of syncytiotrophoblast, consequence of defective placentation occurring in the first half of pregnancy. Reduced tolerance of the semiallogeneic fetus by the maternal immune system has been proposed as first trigger leading to poor placentation. We previously observed aberrant expression of human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR molecules in the syncytiotrophoblast of a subset of women with PE. Aim of this study was to investigate abnormal expression of circulating HLA-DR in syncytiotrophoblast-derived extracellular vesicles (STBEVs) in women with PE compared to normal pregnant women. Methods: peripheral venous blood was collected from 22 women with PE and 22 normal pregnant women. Circulating STBEVs were collected by ultra-centrifugation (120000 g) and analyzed for the expression of HLA-DR and placental alkaline phosphatase (PLAP), a specific marker of the placenta, by Western blot analysis and flow cytometry. Results: circulating STBEVs positive for HLA-DR were observed in 64% of PE women while no HLA-DR positivity was detected in any of the controls (P<0.01). Conclusions: Aberrant expression of HLA-DR in circulating STBEVs is specifically associated to PE. Further studies are required: a) to define the role of aberrant placental expression of HLA-DR molecules in the pathogenesis of PE; b) evaluate a possible application of detecting circulating HLA-DR positive STBEVs in the diagnosis and prediction of PE in the first and second trimester of pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number717879
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - Sep 3 2021


  • human leukocyte antigen
  • placenta
  • pre-eclampsia
  • pregnancy
  • syncytiotrophoblast extracellular vesicles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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