A placental model of SARS-CoV-2 infection reveals ACE2-dependent susceptibility and differentiation impairment in syncytiotrophoblasts

J. Chen (Leading Author), J. A. Neil (Leading Author), J. P. Tan (Leading Author), R. Rudraraju (Leading Author), M. Mohenska, Y. B.Y. Sun, E. Walters, N. G. Bediaga, G. Sun, Y. Zhou, Y. Li, D. Drew, P. Pymm, W. H. Tham, Y. Wang, F. J. Rossello, G. Nie, X. Liu, K. Subbarao (Leading Author), J. M. Polo (Leading Author)

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10 Citations (Scopus)


SARS-CoV-2 infection causes COVID-19. Several clinical reports have linked COVID-19 during pregnancy to negative birth outcomes and placentitis. However, the pathophysiological mechanisms underpinning SARS-CoV-2 infection during placentation and early pregnancy are not clear. Here, to shed light on this, we used induced trophoblast stem cells to generate an in vitro early placenta infection model. We identified that syncytiotrophoblasts could be infected through angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Using a co-culture model of vertical transmission, we confirmed the ability of the virus to infect syncytiotrophoblasts through a previous endometrial cell infection. We further demonstrated transcriptional changes in infected syncytiotrophoblasts that led to impairment of cellular processes, reduced secretion of HCG hormone and morphological changes vital for syncytiotrophoblast function. Furthermore, different antibody strategies and antiviral drugs restore these impairments. In summary, we have established a scalable and tractable platform to study early placental cell types and highlighted its use in studying strategies to protect the placenta.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1234
Number of pages12
JournalNature Cell Biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

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