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Invasion of the Placenta during Murine Listeriosis

Le Monnier, Alban, Join-Lambert, Olivier F., Jaubert, Francis, Berche, Patrick, Kayal, Samer
Infection and immunity 2006 v.74 no.1 pp. 663-672
Listeria monocytogenes, animal models, bacteremia, bacteria, fetus, intravenous injection, listeriosis, mice, pathogens, pregnancy, trophoblast
Feto-placental infections due to Listeria monocytogenes represent a major threat during pregnancy, and the underlying mechanisms of placental invasion remain poorly understood. Here we used a murine model of listeriosis (pregnant mice, infected at day 14 of gestation) to investigate how this pathogen invades and grows within the placenta to ultimately infect the fetus. When L. monocytogenes is injected intravenously, the invasion of the placenta occurs early after the initial bacteremia, allowing the placental growth of the bacteria, which is an absolute requirement for vertical transmission to the fetus. Kinetically, bacteria first target the cells lining the central arterial canal of the placenta, which stain positively with cytokeratin, demonstrating their fetal trophoblast origin. Bacteria then disseminate rapidly to the other trophoblastic structures, like syncytiotrophoblast cells lining the villous core in the labyrinthine zone of placenta. Additionally, we found that an inflammatory reaction predominantly constituted of polymorphonuclear cells occurs in the villous placenta and participates in the control of infection. Altogether, our results suggest that the infection of murine placenta is dependent, at the early phase, on circulating bacteria and their interaction with endovascular trophoblastic cells. Subsequently, the bacteria spread to the other trophoblastic cells before crossing the placental barrier.