Microbial communities in placentas from term normal pregnancy exhibit spatially variable profiles

Lindsay A. Parnell, Catherine M. Briggs, Bin Cao, Omar Delannoy-Bruno, Andrew E. Schrieffer, Indira U. Mysorekar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Scopus citations


The placenta is the principal organ nurturing the fetus during pregnancy and was traditionally considered to be sterile. Recent work has suggested that the placenta harbours microbial communities, however the location and possible function of these microbes remain to be confirmed and elucidated. Here, we employed genomic DNA sequencing of multiple variable (V) regions of the bacterial 16S ribosomal gene, to interrogate microbial profiles in term pregnancies, from the basal plate, which is in direct contact with maternal uterine, endothelial, and immune cells; placental villi, which are bathed in maternal blood, and fetal membranes, which encapsulate the amniotic cavity. QIIME, R package "Phyloseq" analysis was used to assess alpha and beta diversity and absolute abundance of the 16S rRNA gene per location. We demonstrate that (1) microbiota exhibit spatially distinct profiles depending on the location within the placenta and (2) "semi-composite" 16S profiles using multiple V regions validated by quantitative PCR analysis confirmed that distinct bacterial taxa dominate in different placental niches. Finally, profiles are not altered by mode of delivery. Together these findings suggest that there is niche-specificity to the placental microbiota and placental microbiome studies should consider regional differences, which may affect maternal, fetal, and/or neonatal health and physiology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11200
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

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