Background: Implementation of universal antiretroviral therapy (ART) has significantly lowered vertical transmission rates but has also increased numbers of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-exposed uninfected children, who remain vulnerable to morbid effects. In the current study, we investigated whether T-cell alterations in the placenta contribute to altered immune status in HIV-exposed uninfected.
Methods: We analyzed T cells from term placenta decidua and villous tissue and paired cord blood from pregnant women living with HIV (PWH) who initiated ART late in pregnancy (n = 21) with pregnant women not living with HIV (PWNH) (n = 9).
Results: Placentas from PWH showed inverted CD4/CD8 ratios and higher proportions of tissue resident CD8+ T cells in villous tissue relative to control placentas. CD8+ T cells in the fetal capillaries, which were of fetal origin, were positively correlated with maternal plasma viremia before ART initiation, implying that imbalanced T cells persisted throughout pregnancy. In addition, the expanded memory differentiation of CD8+ T cells was confined to the fetal placental compartment and cord blood but was not observed in the maternal decidua.
Conclusions: T-cell homeostatic imbalance in the blood circulation of PWH is reflected in the placenta. The placenta may be a causal link between HIV-induced maternal immune changes during gestation and altered immunity in newborn infants in the absence of vertical transmission.
Keywords: CD4; CD8; HEU; HIV; HIV-exposed; T cells; placenta; placenta pathology; villous tissue.
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