Aberrant placental immune parameters in the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)-infected cat suggest virus-induced changes in T cell function

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Background Immune activity during pregnancy must be tightly regulated to ensure successful pregnancy. This regulation includes the suppression of inflammatory activity that could target the semi-allogeneic fetus. Tregs are immunosuppressive; Th17 cells are pro-inflammatory. A precise balance in the two cell populations is critical to pregnancy maintenance, while dysregulation in this balance accompanies compromised pregnancy in humans and mice. FIV is known to target Tregs preferentially in the infected cat. Therefore, it may be hypothesized that FIV infection alters the placental Treg/Th17 cell balance resulting in aberrant immunomodulator expression by these cells and consequent pregnancy perturbation. Methods RNA was purified from random sections of whole placental tissues collected from both uninfected and FIV-infected queens at early pregnancy, including tissues from viable and nonviable fetuses. Real time qPCR was performed to quantify expression of intranuclear markers of Tregs (FoxP3) and Th17 cells (RORΩ); cytokine products of Tregs (IL-10 and TGF-β), Th17 cells (IL-2, IL-6, and IL-17a), and macrophages (IL-1β); and the FIV gag gene. Pairwise comparisons were made to evaluate coexpression patterns between the cytokines and between the cytokines and the virus. Results Both FoxP3 and RORΩ were reduced in placentas of infected animals. Neither infection status nor fetal viability affected placental expression of IL-1β. However, fetal nonviability was associated with reduced levels of all other cytokines. Infection and fetal nonviability impacted coexpression of various cytokine pairs. No obvious bias toward Treg or Th17 cells was observed. Conclusions FIV infection coupled with fetal nonviability alters expression patterns of T cell cytokines. These data suggest that functionally altered placental T cell leukocyte populations may occur in the infected queen and possibly contribute to fetal nonviability.

Virology Journal. 2013 Jul 19;10(1):238