Chorioamnionitis induces enteric nervous system injury: effects of timing and inflammation in the ovine fetus

C Heymans, I H de Lange, K Lenaerts, L C G A Kessels, M Hadfoune, G Rademakers, V Melotte, W Boesmans, B W Kramer, A H Jobe, M Saito, M W Kemp, W G van Gemert, T G A M Wolfs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Chorioamnionitis, inflammation of the chorion and amnion, which often results from intrauterine infection, is associated with premature birth and contributes to significant neonatal morbidity and mortality, including necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Recently, we have shown that chronic chorioamnionitis is associated with significant structural enteric nervous system (ENS) abnormalities that may predispose to later NEC development. Understanding time point specific effects of an intra-amniotic (IA) infection on the ENS is important for further understanding the pathophysiological processes and for finding a window for optimal therapeutic strategies for an individual patient. The aim of this study was therefore to gain insight in the longitudinal effects of intrauterine LPS exposure (ranging from 5 h to 15 days before premature delivery) on the intestinal mucosa, submucosa, and ENS in fetal lambs by use of a well-established translational ovine chorioamnionitis model.

METHODS: We used an ovine chorioamnionitis model to assess outcomes of the fetal ileal mucosa, submucosa and ENS following IA exposure to one dose of 10 mg LPS for 5, 12 or 24 h or 2, 4, 8 or 15 days.

RESULTS: Four days of IA LPS exposure causes a decreased PGP9.5- and S100β-positive surface area in the myenteric plexus along with submucosal and mucosal intestinal inflammation that coincided with systemic inflammation. These changes were preceded by a glial cell reaction with early systemic and local gut inflammation. ENS changes and inflammation recovered 15 days after the IA LPS exposure.

CONCLUSIONS: The pattern of mucosal and submucosal inflammation, and ENS alterations in the fetus changed over time following IA LPS exposure. Although ENS damage seemed to recover after prolonged IA LPS exposure, additional postnatal inflammatory exposure, which a premature is likely to encounter, may further harm the ENS and influence functional outcome. In this context, 4 to 8 days of IA LPS exposure may form a period of increased ENS vulnerability and a potential window for optimal therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number82
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2020


  • LPS
  • Intra-amniotic infection
  • Chorioamnionitis
  • Enteric nervous system
  • Sheep
  • Preterm birth
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis

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