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Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) “in vitro” infection of human placental histocultures


Most human Herpesvirus infect placental cells and may be harmful in pregnancy, leading to obstetrical and/or neonatal complications. Although a correlation between human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) infection and abortion or low birth weight in children has been reported [1, 2] presently no information has been published regarding HHV-8 tropism for placenta.

Materials and methods

In this study, a placenta histoculture system was used to evaluate the susceptibility of placental cells to “in vitro” HHV-8 infection. Quantitative detection of HHV-8 was performed by real-time PCR, and virus expression was evaluated by immunohistochemistry for latent and lytic HHV-8 antigens.


Increasing amounts of HHV-8 DNA were detected in placental tissues and culture supernatants and immunohistochemistry analyses demonstrated that both cyto- and syncitiotrophoblasts, as well as placental endothelial cells, expressed latent (see Figure 1) and lytic antigens. In addition, relevant apoptotic phenomena were observed in infected histocultures.

Figure 1
figure 1

Immunohistochemical detection of the HHV-8 LANA protein in placental histocultures. Specific reactivity was visualized with immunoperoxidase staining using anti-LANA-1 monoclonal antibodies with a DAB developer (brown colour) and haematoxylin counterstaining. (A) HHV-8-infected CRO-AP/3 cells showed a strongly positive nuclear immunostaining. (B) HHV-8-infected placental histocultures showed positive immunostaining in cytotrophoblasts (yellow arrow), syncytiotrophoblasts (blue arrow) and endothelial cells (white arrow). (C) Mock-infected placental histocultures. Original magnifications, X100.


We here demonstrated for the first time that HHV-8, like other human herpesviruses, may productively infect placental cells in vitro, thus providing evidence that this phenomenon might influence vertical transmission and pregancy outcome in HHV-8-infected women.


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  2. Sarmati L, Ticconi C, Santangelo R, Montano M, Rezza G, et al: Does the risk of abortion increases in women with high human herpesvirus-8 antibody titers?. J Infect Dis. 2003, 188: 173-174. 10.1086/375830.

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This work was supported by grants from Istituto Superiore di Sanità (grant n. 50G.3, MLC; grant n. 50G.29, JRF) and from Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (MLC). MB was the recipient of a fellowship from Associazione Italiana per la Lotta contro le Leucemie, Linfomi e Mieloma (AIL).

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Di Stefano, M., Calabro, M.L., Di Gangi, I.M. et al. Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) “in vitro” infection of human placental histocultures. Retrovirology 5 (Suppl 1), O4 (2008).

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