Objectives: Preeclampsia is a dangerous pregnancy complication. The source of preeclampsia is unknown, though the placenta is believed to have a central role in its pathogenesis. An association between maternal infection and preeclampsia has been demonstrated, yet the involvement of the placental microbiome in the etiology of preeclampsia has not been determined. In this study, we examined whether preeclampsia is associated with an imbalanced microorganism composition in the placenta. Methods: To this end, we developed a novel method for the identification of bacteria/viruses based on sequencing of small non-coding RNA, which increases the microorganism-To-host ratio, this being a major challenge in microbiome methods. We validated the method on various infected tissues and demonstrated its efficiency in detecting microorganisms in samples with extremely low bacterial/viral biomass. We then applied the method to placenta specimens from preeclamptic and healthy pregnancies. Since the placenta is a remarkably large and heterogeneous organ, we explored the bacterial and viral RNA at each of 15 distinct locations. Results: Bacterial RNA was detected at all locations and was consistent with previous studies of the placental microbiome, though without significant differences between the preeclampsia and control groups. Nevertheless, the bacterial RNA composition differed significantly between various areas of the placenta. Viral RNA was detected in extremely low quantities, below the threshold of significance, thus viral abundance could not be determined. Conclusions: Our results suggest that the bacterial and viral abundance in the placenta may have only limited involvement in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia. The evidence of a heterogenic bacterial RNA composition in the various placental locations warrants further investigation to capture the true nature of the placental microbiome.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research funding: The Shomron laboratory is supported by the Adelis Foundation. L.Y. is supported by the Eshkol Fellowship of the Israel Ministry of Science, Technology, and Space.
© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.
- RNA sequencing
- microorganisms detection
- non coding RNA
- novel computational method