The immunological basis of villitis of unknown etiology - review

J A Tamblyn, D M Lissauer, M D Kilby

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59 Citations (Scopus)


Villitis of unknown etiology (VUE) represents a common placental inflammatory lesion, primarily, but not exclusively, identifiable T lymphocytes at term. Despite considerable evidence to contest that this simply represents a benign pathological finding, VUE remains a significantly undervalued diagnosis. Given its association with adverse pregnancy outcomes; including fetal growth restriction, preterm birth, and recurrent pregnancy loss, an increased awareness amongst clinician obstetricians is certainly warranted. The underlying immunopathogenesis of VUE remains uncertain. Despite initial theories that this represents an infectious placental lesion of undiagnosed pathogenic source, a more complex sequence of events involving the "breakdown" of maternal-fetal tolerance is emerging. Characterization of a unique inflammatory phenomenon in which both maternal and fetal T lymphocytes and Höfbauer cells interact has captivated particular research interest and has generated analogies to both the problems of allograft rejection and graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). Within the context of VUE, this review evaluates how disruption of the multidimensional immunological mechanisms underlying feto-maternal tolerance may permit abnormal lymphocyte infiltration into placental villi. We shall review the existing evidence for these events in VUE and outline areas of certain future interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)846-55
Number of pages10
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Abortion, Habitual
  • Chorionic Villi
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation
  • Fetus
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Placenta Diseases
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Premature Birth
  • T-Lymphocytes


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