The paradoxical effects of chronic intra-amniotic Ureaplasma parvum exposure on ovine fetal brain development

Ruth Gussenhoven, Daan R.M.G. Ophelders, Matthew W. Kemp, Matthew S. Payne, Owen B. Spiller, Michael L. Beeton, Sarah J. Stock, Bertha Cillero-Pastor, Florian P.Y. Barré, Ron M.A. Heeren, Lilian Kessels, Bas Stevens, Bart P. Rutten, Suhas G. Kallapur, Alan H. Jobe, Boris W. Kramer, Tim G.A.M. Wolfs

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Chorioamnionitis is associated with adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in preterm infants. Ureaplasma spp. are the microorganisms most frequently isolated from the amniotic fluid of women diagnosed with chorioamnionitis. However, controversy remains concerning the role of Ureaplasma spp. in the pathogenesis of neonatal brain injury. We hypothesize that reexposure to an inflammatory trigger during the perinatal period might be responsible for the variation in brain outcomes of preterms following Ureaplasma-driven chorioamnionitis. To investigate these clinical scenarios, we performed a detailed multimodal study in which ovine neurodevelopmental outcomes were assessed following chronic intra-amniotic Ureaplasma parvum (UP) infection either alone or combined with subsequent lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exposure. We show that chronic intra-amniotic UP exposure during the second trimester provoked a decrease in astrocytes, increased oligodendrocyte numbers, and elevated 5-methylcytosine levels. In contrast, short-term LPS exposure before preterm birth induced increased microglial activation, myelin loss, elevation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine levels, and lipid profile changes. These LPS-induced changes were prevented by chronic preexposure to UP (preconditioning). These data indicate that chronic UP exposure has dual effects on preterm brain development in utero. On the one hand, prolonged UP exposure causes detrimental cerebral changes that may predispose to adverse postnatal clinical outcomes. On the other, chronic intra-amniotic UP exposure preconditions the brain against a second inflammatory hit. This study demonstrates that microbial interactions and the timing and duration of the inflammatory insults determine the effects on the fetal brain. Therefore, this study helps to understand the complex and diverse postnatal neurological outcomes following UP driven chorioamnionitis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)472-486
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

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