Cell-mediated infection of human placental trophoblast with HIV in vitro

Gordon C Douglas, G. N. Fry, T. Thirkill, E. Holmes, H. Hakim, M. Jennings, B. F. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


In order to investigate how human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) gains entry to the placenta, we have performed in vitro experiments in which highly purified trophoblast cells isolated from term human placentas were examined for their susceptibility to HIV infection. Trophoblast cells were exposed to cell-free HIV-1 for up to 24 h, after which the cultures were monitored by p24 antigen capture assay, reverse transcriptase assay, and electron microscopy for evidence of virus uptake and replication. None was found. In the second series of experiments, trophoblast cells were cocultured with HIV-infected MOLT-4 cells for 24 h, stained using an anti-HIV antibody, and examined by immunofluorescence microscopy. The MOLT cells were strongly positive, as expected, but many trophoblast colonies also showed a punctate staining pattern. Examination of similar cultures using the electron microscope revealed MOLT cells adherent to trophoblast but no evidence of cell-cell fusion. Virions were observed in coated pits at the trophoblast cell surface and in endosomes or multivesicular bodies in the cytoplasm. These observations are consistent with an endocytosis-mediated mechanism of virus entry. Virions were also observed budding from the trophoblast plasma membrane, indicating that these cells can support HIV replication. To our knowledge, these results show for the first time that HIV can infect placental trophoblast cells in vitro. The results suggest that the placenta could become infected with HIV by the interaction of virus-infected maternal lymphocytes with syncytiotrophoblast bordering the maternal blood in the intervillous space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-740
Number of pages6
JournalAIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'Cell-mediated infection of human placental trophoblast with HIV in vitro'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this