Limited replication of human cytomegalovirus in a trophoblast cell line

J Gen Virol. 2021 Nov;102(11). doi: 10.1099/jgv.0.001683.


Several viruses, including human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), are thought to replicate in the placenta. However, there is little understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in HCMV replication in this tissue. We investigated replication of HCMV in the extravillous trophoblast cell line SGHPL-4, a commonly used model of HCMV replication in the placenta. We found limited HCMV protein expression and virus replication in SGHPL-4 cells. This was associated with a lack of trophoblast progenitor cell protein markers in SGHPL-4 cells, suggesting a relationship between trophoblast differentiation and limited HCMV replication. We proposed that limited HCMV replication in trophoblast cells is advantageous to vertical transmission of HCMV, as there is a greater opportunity for vertical transmission when the placenta is intact and functional. Furthermore, when we investigated the replication of other vertically transmitted viruses in SGHPL-4 cells we found some limitation to replication of Zika virus, but not herpes simplex virus. Thus, limited replication of some, but not all, vertically transmitted viruses may be a feature of trophoblast cells.

Keywords: cytomegalovirus; human; placenta; trophoblast.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't