Chronic villitis of unknown etiology: Investigations into viral pathogenesis

Linda M. Ernst, Crystal Bockoven, Alexa Freedman, Vivien Wang, Matthew Pellerite, Todd N. Wylie, Kristine M. Wylie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Introduction: Chronic villitis of unknown etiology (VUE) is a chronic inflammatory lesion of third trimester placenta, which contributes to major adverse obstetric outcomes. However, the inciting factors and mechanisms by which VUE contributes to adverse outcomes are poorly understood. This limits our ability to develop preventions or interventions. Our goals were to determine whether viruses can be detected in placental tissues with VUE and to determine whether gene expression profiles support an antiviral response. Methods: We extracted RNA and DNA from 20 placentas with high-grade chronic villitis and 20 control placentas without inflammation. Viruses were assessed using ViroCap viral nucleic acid enrichment coupled with metagenomic sequencing. RNA sequencing was used to evaluate the inflammatory gene expression profiles in each placenta. Results: We detected at least 1 virus in 50% of the samples tested. We found that herpesviruses, were found more frequently in cases compared with controls (P = 0.01). Antiviral pathways, including defense response to virus, interferon gamma response, and IFN alpha/beta response, were upregulated in cases. We observed two clusters of gene expression profiles in the VUE cases, suggesting multiple inflammatory profiles are associated with VUE. Discussion: These data support a viral etiology for some cases of VUE. Furthermore, gene expression profiles suggest the possibility of more than one cause or manifestation of VUE. Viral mechanisms should be explored as potential targets for prevention or intervention in VUE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-30
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Chronic villitis of unknown etiology
  • Herpesviruses
  • Placenta
  • Virome


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