Unique maternal immune and functional microbial profiles during prenatal stress

Adrienne M. Antonson, Morgan V. Evans, Jeffrey D. Galley, Helen J. Chen, Therese A. Rajasekera, Sydney M. Lammers, Vanessa L. Hale, Michael T. Bailey, Tamar L. Gur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maternal stress during pregnancy is widespread and is associated with poor offspring outcomes, including long-term mental health issues. Prenatal stress-induced fetal neuroinflammation is thought to underlie aberrant neurodevelopment and to derive from a disruption in intrauterine immune homeostasis, though the exact origins are incompletely defined. We aimed to identify divergent immune and microbial metagenome profiles of stressed gestating mice that may trigger detrimental inflammatory signaling at the maternal–fetal interface. In response to stress, maternal glucocorticoid circuit activation corresponded with indicators of systemic immunosuppression. At the maternal–fetal interface, density of placental mononuclear leukocytes decreased with stress, yet maternal whole blood leukocyte analysis indicated monocytosis and classical M1 phenotypic shifts. Genome-resolved microbial metagenomic analyses revealed reductions in genes, microbial strains, and metabolic pathways in stressed dams that are primarily associated with pro-inflammatory function. In particular, disrupted Parasutterella excrementihominis appears to be integral to inflammatory and metabolic dysregulation during prenatal stress. Overall, these perturbations in maternal immunological and microbial regulation during pregnancy may displace immune equilibrium at the maternal–fetal interface. Notably, the absence of and reduction in overt maternal inflammation during stress indicates that the signaling patterns driving fetal outcomes in this context are more nuanced and complex than originally anticipated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20288
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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