van Boeckel, S. et al (2017) Evaluating the Role of Cell-free Fetal DNA in Inflammation and Spontaneous Preterm Birth. BioRXiv

Evaluating the Role of Cell-free Fetal DNA in Inflammation and Spontaneous Preterm Birth.

van Boeckel, S.R., MacPherson, H., Davidson, D.J., Norman, J.E., Stock, S.J.
BioRxiv doi:  BioRxiv

Davidson lab supported by funding from: MRC

Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal mortality. While spontaneous preterm birth (sPTB) is the cause of over 70% of PTB, the pathogenesis behind sPTB remains unclear. Cell-free fetal DNA (cff-DNA) originates from the placenta and is increased in women who develop PTB. It has been demonstrated that fetal DNA is hypomethylated and is pro-inflammatory. The pro-inflammatory properties of placental-derived DNA, the effects of placental inflammation on the production of cff-DNA, and its significance in the pathogenesis of PTB are unknown. Using a human placental explant model, we analysed the effect of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation on cff-DNA production, and used the cff-DNA generated by these explants to examine the methylation profile and in-vitro pro-inflammatory properties of cff-DNA. LPS caused significant production of TNF-? from placental explants, but did not significantly increase the cff-DNA production. Placental-derived cff-DNA, was found to have a small proportion of unmethylated CpG motifs, but was more similar to adult DNA than to more highly unmethylated E-coli DNA. However, cff-DNA did not elicit production of inflammatory cytokines (IL-6, IL-8, TNF-? and CXCL10) by peripheral blood mononuclear cells from pregnant women. Furthermore, in contrast to LPS, intra-uterine injections of mouse placental DNA did not decrease time to delivery in an in-vivo mouse PTB model compared to control animals. This study demonstrates that placental inflammation does not increase the production of cff-DNA in placental explants, and cff-DNA alone is not sufficient to elicit an inflammatory response in human PBMC cultures ex-vivo. It also shows that mouse placental DNA does not cause PTB in-vivo. This suggests that cff-DNA might be predominantly an effect of parturition and not a principal causative agent.
Back to publications