Placental immune responses to viruses: Molecular and histo-pathologic perspectives

Kavita Narang, Elizabeth H. Cheek, Elizabeth Ann L. Enninga, Regan N. Theiler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


As most recently demonstrated by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, congenital and perinatal infections are of significant concern to the pregnant population as compared to the general population. These outcomes can range from no apparent impact all the way to spontaneous abortion or fetal infection with long term developmental consequences. While some pathogens have developed mechanisms to cross the placenta and directly infect the fetus, other pathogens lead to an upregulation in maternal or placental inflammation that can indirectly cause harm. The placenta is a temporary, yet critical organ that serves multiple important functions during gestation including facilitation of fetal nutrition, oxygenation, and prevention of fetal infection in utero. Here, we review trophoblast cell immunology and the molecular mechanisms utilized to protect the fetus from infection. Lastly, we discuss consequences in the placenta when these protections fail and the histopathologic result following infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2921
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2 2021


  • Congenital
  • Immune response
  • Placenta
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Viral infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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