Expression of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 cell entry genes, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and transmembrane protease serine 2, in the placenta across gestation and at the maternal-fetal interface in pregnancies complicated by preterm birth or preeclampsia

Enrrico Bloise, Jianhong Zhang, Jittanan Nakpu, Hirotaka Hamada, Caroline E. Dunk, Siliang Li, Guinever E. Imperio, Lubna Nadeem, Mark Kibschull, Phetcharawan Lye, Stephen G. Matthews, Stephen J. Lye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Although there is some evidence that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 can invade the human placenta, limited data exist on the gestational age–dependent expression profile of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 cell entry mediators, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and transmembrane protease serine 2, at the human maternal-fetal interface. There is also no information as to whether the expression of these mediators is altered in pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia or preterm birth. This is important because the expression of decidual and placental angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and transmembrane protease serine 2 across gestation may affect the susceptibility of pregnancies to vertical transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Objective: This study aimed to investigate the expression pattern of specific severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 cell entry genes, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and transmembrane protease serine 2, in the placenta across human pregnancy and in paired samples of decidua and placenta in pregnancies complicated by preterm birth or preeclampsia compared with those in term uncomplicated pregnancies. Study Design: In this study, 2 separate cohorts of patients, totaling 87 pregnancies, were included. The first cohort was composed of placentae from first- (7–9 weeks), second- (16–18 weeks), and third-trimester preterm (26–31 weeks) and third-trimester term (38–41 weeks) pregnancies (n=5/group), whereas the second independent cohort included matched decidua and placentae from pregnancies from term uncomplicated pregnancies (37–41 weeks’ gestation; n=14) and pregnancies complicated by preterm birth (26–37 weeks’ gestation; n=11) or preeclampsia (25–37 weeks’ gestation; n=42). Samples were subjected to quantitative polymerase chain reaction and next-generation sequencing or RNA sequencing for next-generation RNA sequencing for angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and transmembrane protease serine 2 mRNA expression quantification, respectively. Results: In the first cohort, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and transmembrane protease serine 2, exhibited a gestational age–dependent expression profile, that is, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and transmembrane protease serine 2 mRNA was higher (P<.05) in the first-trimester placenta than in second-trimester, preterm birth, and term placentae (P<.05) and exhibited a negative correlation with gestational age (P<.05). In the second cohort, RNA sequencing demonstrated very low or undetectable expression levels of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 in preterm birth, preeclampsia, and term decidua and in placentae from late gestation. In contrast, transmembrane protease serine 2 was expressed in both decidual and placental samples but did not change in pregnancies complicated by either preterm birth or preeclampsia. Conclusion: The increased expression of these severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 cell entry–associated genes in the placenta in the first trimester of pregnancy compared with those in later stages of pregnancy suggests the possibility of differential susceptibility to placental entry to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 across pregnancy. Even though there is some evidence of increased rates of preterm birth associated with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection, we found no increase in mRNA expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or transmembrane protease serine 2 at the maternal-fetal interface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298.e1-298.e8
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Volume224
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • angiotensin-converting enzyme 2
  • coronavirus disease 2019
  • decidua
  • gestation age–dependent gene expression
  • placenta
  • preeclampsia
  • preterm birth
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
  • term pregnancies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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