HOW DO UREAPLASMA MICROORGANISMS INVADE THE PROTECTED ENVIRONMENT
HOW DO UREAPLASMA MICROORGANISMS INVADE THE PROTECTED
ENVIRONMENT OF THE BABY?
Kim Newman, MAT1, Victoria HJ Roberts, PhD2, Peta L Grigsby, PhD2
Portland Christian High School, Portland, Oregon; 2Division of Reproductive Science, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Beaverton, OR
Objective: To investigate the transmigration of U.parvum across intact
gestational membranes and measure the immunological response of
the amnion and choriodecidual membranes to the microorganisms.
Introduction: Almost 13% of all pregnancies deliver preterm and as a result the preterm infant often has life-long health
complications which may include lung dysfunction and neurologic impairment. 1 Several factors contribute to preterm birth, with
about 30-40% of these cases attributable to intrauterine infections. 2 The predominate bacteria is U.parvum. The aim of this
study is to use an in vitro model to investigate the transmigration of U.parvum across intact gestational membranes and
measure the immunological response of the amnion and choriodecidual membranes to the microorganisms.
Methods: Gestational membranes were mounted on a Transwell culture system, which allowed us to test the choriodecidua
side and the amnion side of the membranes individually. In order to test the chorioamniotic membranes using the Transwell
system, several difficulties needed to be addressed; which media(s) was conducive to both U.parvum growth and tissue health.
U.parvum growth was tested using quantitative culture and PCR analysis at the Diagnostic Mycoplasma Laboratory (Alabama).
The viability of the tissue was assessed through a colorimetric assay using tetrazolium salts added to the culture medium. The
long-term objective of this project will be to stimulate the membranes with U.parvum (107 cfu/mL) and examine the
inflammatory response via cytokine and prostaglandin production from the component tissue layers.
Results: We tested 4 media conditions: 2-SP (sucrose phosphate); DMEM (-Ab/Am) [Dulbecco Modified Eagle Medium
supplemented with 10% fetal calf serum and 1% L-glutamine, without antibiotics and antimycotics], DMEM (-Ab/Am), 2-SP with
AF (amniotic fluid), and DMEM (+Ab/Am). The viability of the membranes evaluated by a colorimetric assay using tetrazolium
salts initially show that the membranes are healthiest in 2-SP:DMEM (-Ab/Am). The procedures need to be repeated to validate
these results. U.parvum cultured in each of the media conditions tested produced no viable bacterial colonies.
The invasion properties of U.parvum will be measured through intact chorion
and amnion membrane tissue layers in a Transwell in vitro culture system
Tissue Acquisition and Transwell Culture Preparation
Chorioamniotic membranes were obtained within 10 minutes of elective
cesarean delivery from healthy term pregnancies after obtaining written
Conclusions: Further conditions need to be evaluated to optimize the growth of U.parvum in the Transwell culture system.
Once we have identified the optimal media for both U.parvum and the gestational tissue, we aim to investigate how the
bacteria crosses this protective barrier and what impact it has on facilitating the immunological response driving preterm labor.
The membranes were cut 2-3 cm from the placental disc, rinsed in sterile
Hanks Balanced salt solution, and transported to the laboratory in
Dulbecco Modified Eagle Medium (DMEM).
Segments representing all layers of the membranes were cut into 2 X 2 cm
squares and attached with a sterilized silicone rubber ring to the Transwell
culture system (Figures 3 and 4).
Figure 3: The gestational membranes were
held together with silicone rubber rings in the
upper chamber of a Transwell device. The
choriodecidual region occupies the upper
chamber, while the amnion region, the lower
chamber . 6
deliver preterm (Figure 1). Infants born
preterm (< 37 weeks) can have a variety of
life-long health complications which may
include: lung dysfunction and neurologic
impairment, including cerebral palsy. 1
Several factors contribute to preterm birth,
Babies develop in a protected environment surrounded by multiple gestational membranes. This creates
a water-tight barrier surrounding the fetus and amniotic fluid. These membranes are the first line of
defense in protecting the fetus from infection, and are comprised of three fused layers (See figure 2
1. The amnion, an epithelial fetal layer that has direct contact with the amniotic fluid;
2. The chorion, the outer fetal membrane layer; and
3. The decidua which is of maternal origin and is adjacent to the uterine wall.
1 mL of growth media was added to each well of a 12-well plate, and 0.5 mL of growth media was added to the
upper chamber of the Transwell insert (Figure 5).
The membranes were incubated in 5% CO 2 @ 37 C for 24 hours. During that time, the medium was changed
twice: After the first 2-4 hours and 1-2 hours prior to inoculation with U.parvum (107cfu/mL).
As a woman goes into labor, these membranes
secrete prostaglandins, cytokines and hormones that
trigger cervical dilation, membrane rupture and
uterine contractions. 3
protected environment through an ascending route
from the cervical-vaginal canal. 4
However, there is no direct experimental evidence
Figure 2: Anatomy of gestational membranes and ascending intrauterine infection and the progressive stages of intra-uterine
Stage I: Changes in vaginal or cervical flora; Stage II: Bacteria
ascend from cervical-vaginal canal into the choriodecidual space,
leading to an inflammatory response and choriodeciduitis; Stage III:
Bacteria migrate into the amniotic cavity; Stage IV: Bacteria gain
access to the fetus which can result in severe fetal infection. 4
demonstrating that U.parvum can breech the intact
chorioamniotic membranes and gain entry into the
amniotic cavity, which raises several questions:
What causes the overgrowth of U.parvum in a
subset of women?
How is it getting in the amniotic cavity?
Tissue U. parvum Inoculation
During the summer of 2011, the following methods will be used:
107 cfu/mL U.parvum will be added to the Transwell inserts on the choriodecidual side .
After 24 hours of incubation, the media will be collected from both chambers, centrifuged @ 5,000 rpm for 3
minutes at 4 C to precipitate U.parvum.
The bacteria-free media will then be tested for cytokines and prostaglandins, while the U.parvum pellet will
be sent to the Diagnostic Mycoplasma Laboratory for quantitative culture and PCR analysis.
found in any of the
growth media after
The 2SP:DMEM- may
have been a broth
only positive or less
that the U.parvum
was present but
Discussion and Questions
During ascending infection the choriodecidua is the first-line barrier in contact with pathogens that can
cross the membranes and infect the amnion and amniotic fluid. Localized inflammatory responses in vivo
are likely to weaken the structural integrity of the chorioamnion and allow a less virulent microorganism to
also breech this barrier, such as U.parvum.8
Indeed, clinical studies have shown U.parvum can be cultured in the amniotic fluid as early as 16-20
weeks of gestation.8 Despite this, there is no direct experimental evidence demonstrating that U.parvum
can breech the intact chorioamniotic membranes and gain entry into the amniotic cavity.
With the in vitro Transwell culture system using intact chorioamniotic tissue layers, we hope to discover
how U.parvum crosses the membranes and what impact it has on the immunological response.
Is there a time threshold or a microbial concentration threshold?
Does U.parvum piggy-back on other bacteria?
Are the membranes weakened by other factors that allow U.parvum access to the amniotic fluid and
ultimately to the baby?
What is the inflammatory response with infection?
Through understanding the pathophysiology and pathogenesis of preterm birth as a result of
ascending uterine infection, strategies can be developed for early diagnosis and treatment.
This in turn would decrease the incidence of preterm labor and increase the health of newborn
(b)Tissue Viability Studies:
Tissue viability was evaluated by a colorimetric assay using tetrazolium salts (MTT) added to the
different culture media conditions. This was processed in a separate set-up where the salts were
observed changing from yellow to blue assessing the tissues overall metabolism. 7
50% of these microorganisms found in the infected
amniotic fluid are Ureaplasma species (i.e., U.
parvum). These organisms are typically found in
normal vaginal flora of ~80% of healthy pregnant
w/ Antibiotics &
(a) Bacterial Growth Conditions:
In duplicate, U.parvum and 1 mL of experimental
media was added to a 12-well culture plate as
summarized in Table 1.
The U.parvum was incubated in 5% CO2 @ 37 C for 24 hours.
For each media condition, 100 L aliquots in 10B culture tubes and PCR transport buffer were
frozen at -80 C prior to shipment to the Diagnostic Mycoplasma Laboratory.
Studies suggest that some bacteria can breech this
Alternative Strategies and Future Directions
Our future trouble-shooting may include allowing the U.parvum to grow into the log phase before
culturing in the various media.
Along with the previously tested media, we may include 10B broth, a known culture media for
U.parvum. The pH will need to be adjusted to maintain tissue viability.
Figure 5: 12-Well Transwell set up
The Transwell set-up has not been used with U.parvum; a
difficult bacteria to culture. As a result, our initial investigations
were devoted to evaluating the optimal bacterial growth
conditions, while also maintaining the viability of the tissue.
Almost 13% of all pregnancies in the US
Figure 4: After the membranes are attached the
excess tissue is removed.
National Preterm Birth Rate
with about 30-40% of these cases
attributable to intrauterine infections. 2 The
presence of infection triggers a cascade of
events that can lead to preterm labor
Finding optimal growth media for U.parvum while maintaining tissue health was challenging. Our data
supports that tissue is most healthy (for 48 hours) in DMEM with 10% fetal calf serum and 1% Lglutamine (-Ab/Am) (Figure 6). However, U.parvum did not grow in any of the media conditions tested
Table 2: U.parvum
(colony f orming
colonies were not
(optical density/g of tissue)
Thank you to:
The Murdock Foundation for funding this mind-stretching and inspirational opportunity.
Drs. Peta Grigsby and Victoria Roberts for allowing me to be their side kick, for their great patience with teaching me, and
for allowing me to be part of the scientific process.
Dr. Leo Pereira for creating the opportunity to obtain gestational tissue and for allowing me to observe the miracle of life.
Amanda Alexander for coming along side of me teaching me valuable skills.
Melinda Murphy for going above and beyond helping us set-up our CO 2 incubator.
Joel Ito for proofing and printing this poster for me.
Supported by NIH Grant HD055053 and RR000163
 Grether JK, Nelson KB: Maternal infection and cerebral palsy in infants of normal birth weight. Journal of the American Medical Association 278: 207,
 Newton ER: Preterm labor, preterm premature rupture of membranes and chorioamnionitis. Clinical Perinatology 2005, 32:571-600.
 Parry S, Strauss JF: Premature rupture of the fetal membranes. New England Journal of Medicine 1998, 338:663-668.
 Romero R, Mazor M: Infection and preterm labor. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 1988, 31(3):553-584.
 Sperling RS, Schachter JS: Intra-amniotic infection in low birth weight infants. Journal of Infectious Diseases 157:113, 1988.
 Zaga V, Estrada-Gutierrez G: Secretion of Interleukin-I beta and tumor necrosis factor alpha by whole fetal membranes depends on initial interactions of
amnion or chorion with lipopolysaccharides or group B streptococci. Biological Reproduction 2004, 71:1296-1302.
Gerlier D, Thomasset N: Use of MTT colorimetric assay to measure cell activation. Journal of Immunological Methods 1986; 94:57-63.
Cassell, G.H., et al.: Isolation of Mycoplasma hominis and Ureaplasma urealyticum from amniotic fluid at 16-20 weeks of gestation: potential effect on
outcome of pregnancy. Sex Transm Dis, 1983. 10(4 Suppl): p. 294-302.
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