Proinflammatory changes in the maternal circulation, maternal–fetal interface, and placental transcriptome in preterm birth

Camille Couture, Marie Eve Brien, Ines Boufaied, Cyntia Duval, Dorothee Dal Soglio, Elizabeth Ann L. Enninga, Brian Cox, Sylvie Girard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Preterm birth remains a leading obstetrical complication because of the incomplete understanding of its multifaceted etiology. It is known that immune alterations toward a proinflammatory profile are observed in women with preterm birth, but therapeutic interventions are still lacking because of scarcity of evidence in the integration of maternal and placental interrelated compartments. Objective: This study aimed to obtain an integrated view of the maternal and placental contribution to preterm birth compared with normal term pregnancies for an in-depth understanding of the immune/inflammatory involvement, intending to identify novel strategies to mitigate the negative impact of inflammation. Study Design: We prospectively recruited 79 women with preterm or term deliveries and collected placentas for RNA sequencing, histologic analyses, and to assess levels of inflammatory mediators. Blood samples were also collected to determine the circulating immune profiles by flow cytometry and to evaluate the circulating levels of inflammatory mediators. Results: Placental transcriptomic analyses revealed 102 differentially expressed genes upregulated in preterm birth, including known and novel targets, which were highly enriched for inflammatory biological processes according to gene ontology analyses. Analysis of maternal immune cells revealed distinct profiles in preterm births vs term births, including an increased percentage of CD3 cells and monocyte subsets and decreased CD3+ cells along with Th17 subsets of CD4+ lymphocytes. Supporting our bioinformatic findings, we found increases in proinflammatory mediators in the plasma, placenta, and fetal membranes (primarily the amnion) of women with preterm birth, such as interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α. These findings were not distinct between spontaneous and iatrogenic preterm births except at a molecular level where spontaneous preterm birth presented with an elevated inflammatory profile compared with iatrogenic preterm birth. Analysis of placental histology revealed increased structural and inflammatory lesions in preterm vs term births. We found that genes upregulated in placentas with inflammatory lesions have enrichment of proinflammatory pathways. Conclusion: This work sheds light on changes within the immune system in preterm birth on multiple levels and compartments to help identify pregnancies at high risk of preterm birth and to discover novel therapeutic targets for preterm birth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332.e1-332.e17
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • RNA sequencing
  • inflammation
  • maternal circulation
  • maternal–fetal interface
  • placenta
  • preterm birth
  • transcriptomic profiles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Proinflammatory changes in the maternal circulation, maternal–fetal interface, and placental transcriptome in preterm birth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this