In vitro and in vivo human herpesvirus 8 infection of placenta

Mariantonietta Di Stefano, Maria Luisa Calabrò, Iole Maria Di Gangi, Santina Cantatore, Massimo Barbierato, Elisa Bergamo, Anfumbom Jude Kfutwah, Margherita Neri, Luigi Chieco-Bianchi, Pantaleo Greco, Loreto Gesualdo, Ahidjo Ayouba, Elisabeth Menu, Josè Ramòn Fiore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Herpesvirus infection of placenta may be harmful in pregnancy leading to disorders in fetal growth, premature delivery, miscarriage, or major congenital abnormalities. Although a correlation between human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) infection and abortion or low birth weight in children has been suggested, and rare cases of in utero or perinatal HHV-8 transmission have been documented, no direct evidence of HHV-8 infection of placenta has yet been reported. The aim of this study was to evaluate the in vitro and in vivo susceptibility of placental cells to HHV-8 infection. Short-term infection assays were performed on placental chorionic villi isolated from term placentae. Qualitative and quantitative HHV-8 detection were performed by PCR and real-time PCR, and HHV-8 proteins were analyzed by immunohistochemistry. Term placenta samples from HHV-8-seropositive women were analyzed for the presence of HHV-8 DNA and antigens. In vitro infected histocultures showed increasing amounts of HHV-8 DNA in tissues and supernatants; cyto- and syncitiotrophoblasts, as well as endothelial cells, expressed latent and lytic viral antigens. Increased apoptotic phenomena were visualized by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine nick end-labeling method in infected histocultures. Ex vivo, HHV-8 DNA and a latent viral antigen were detected in placenta samples from HHV-8-seropositive women. These findings demonstrate that HHV-8, like other human herpesviruses, may infect placental cells in vitro and in vivo, thus providing evidence that this phenomenon might influence vertical transmission and pregnancy outcome in HHV-8-infected women.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4073
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 30 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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