Viral-Immune Cell Interactions at the Maternal-Fetal Interface in Human Pregnancy

Elaine L. Parker, Rachel B. Silverstein, Sonam Verma, Indira U. Mysorekar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The human decidua and placenta form a distinct environment distinguished for its promotion of immunotolerance to infiltrating semiallogeneic trophoblast cells to enable successful pregnancy. The maternal-fetal interface also successfully precludes transmission of most pathogens. This barrier function occurs in conjunction with a diverse influx of decidual immune cells including natural killer cells, macrophages and T cells. However, several viruses, among other microorganisms, manage to escape destruction by the host adaptive and innate immune system, leading to congenital infection and adverse pregnancy outcomes. In this review, we describe mechanisms of pathogenicity of two such viral pathogens, Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and Zika virus (ZIKV) at the maternal-fetal interface. Host decidual immune cell responses to these specific pathogens will be considered, along with their interactions with other cell types and the ways in which these immune cells may both facilitate and limit infection at different stages of pregnancy. Neither HCMV nor ZIKV naturally infect commonly used animal models [e.g., mice] which makes it challenging to understand disease pathogenesis. Here, we will highlight new approaches using placenta-on-a-chip and organoids models that are providing functional and physiologically relevant ways to study viral-host interaction at the maternal-fetal interface.

Original languageEnglish
Article number522047
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Oct 7 2020


  • Hofbauer cell
  • NK cells
  • T cells
  • decidua
  • human cytomegalovirus
  • macrophages
  • placenta
  • pregnancy


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