• HIV antigens;
  • tissue factor;
  • receptors;
  • villitis

ABSTRACT: Cryostat sections of human normal term placentae were studied for evidence of immunopathology by using antibodies to lymphocytes, macrophages, platelets, and coagulation factors. Areas of so-called chronic villitis of unestablished etiology were identified in all placentae. The same tissues were examined for HIV protein antigens gp120, p17, p24, and gp41. No evidence for gp41 was found. Antigens gp120 and p17 were identified in normal chorionic villi in vimentin-positive fibroblast-like cells and in endothelium, respectively. Antigen p24 was localized to HLA-DR positive cells that morphologically resembled macrophages in areas of villitis. The distribution of gp120 and p17 was similar to that observed for tissue factor. These findings prompted speculation that retroviral proto-oncogenes that are known to encode for certain placental receptors could be involved in the presentation of tissue factor, and that gp120 may be a hitherto unrecognized immunobiological mechanism for the blockade of CD4 on maternal lymphocytes if and when such cells gain entrance to chorionic villi.