Assessing the involvement of the placental microbiome and virome in preeclampsia using non coding RNA sequencing

Liron Yoffe, Amir A. Kuperman, Ofer Isakov, Danielle Haguel, Avital L. Polsky, Luba Farberov, Nir Pillar, Vyacheslav Gurevich, Izhak Haviv, Noam Shomron*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1083
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Perinatal Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • NGS
  • RNA sequencing
  • microbiome
  • microorganisms detection
  • non coding RNA
  • novel computational method
  • placenta
  • virome


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