In vitro mRNA-S maternal vaccination induced altered immune regulation at the maternal-fetal interface

Ananth Kumar Kammala, Madhuri Tatiparthy, Tilu Jain Thomas, Srinivasa Reddy Bonam, Istvan Boldogh, Hu Haitao, Surendra Sharma, Ramkumar Menon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Maternal-fetal immunology is intricate, and the effects of mRNA-S maternal vaccination on immune regulation at the maternal-fetal interface require further investigation. Our study endeavors to elucidate these immunological changes, enhancing our comprehension of maternal and fetal health outcomes. By analyzing immune profiles and cytokine responses, we aim to provide valuable insights into the impact of mRNA-S vaccination on the delicate balance of immune regulation during pregnancy, addressing critical questions in the field of reproductive pharmacology. Objectives: This investigation sought to examine the prospective influence of mRNA-S-based vaccines and extracellular vesicles (EVs) containing the Spike (S) protein at the maternal-fetal interface. Our primary emphasis was on evaluating their effects on maternal decidua cells and fetal chorion trophoblast cells (hFM-CTCs). Methods: We validated the generation of EVs containing the S protein from small human airway epithelial cell lines (HSAECs) following mRNA-S vaccine exposure. We assessed the expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) gene and protein in fetal membranes and the placenta, with specific attention to decidual cells and fetal membrane chorion cells. To assess cellular functionality, these cells were exposed to both recombinant S protein and EVs loaded with S proteins (eSPs). Results: Our findings revealed that cells and EVs subjected to mRNA-S-based vaccination exhibited altered protein expression levels of S proteins. At the feto-maternal interface, both placental and fetal membrane tissues demonstrated similar ACE-2 expression levels. Among individual cellular layers, syncytiotrophoblast cells in the placenta and chorion cells in the fetal membrane exhibited elevated ACE-2 expression. Notably, EVs derived from HSAECs activated the MAPK pathway in decidual cells. Additionally, decidual cells displayed a substantial increase in gene expression of chemokines like CXCL-10 and CXCL-11, as well as proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 in response to eSPs. However, the levels of Ccl-2 and IL-1β remained unchanged in decidual cells under the same conditions. Conversely, hFM-CTCs demonstrated significant alterations in the proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines with respect to eSPs. Conclusion: In conclusion, our study indicates that mRNA-S-based maternal vaccination during pregnancy may influence the maternal-fetal interface's COVID-19 interaction and immune regulation. Further investigation is warranted to assess safety and implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13861
JournalAmerican Journal of Reproductive Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024


  • mRNA vaccine
  • pregnancy and maternal-fetal interface
  • spike proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

Cite this