Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Maureen W. Groer


CMV, HSV-2, IDO, Phenylalanine, Th1/Th2 Immunity, Tryptophan


Recent studies suggest that some cases of prenatal depression may be associated with reactivation of latent infections of the herpesvirus family. The possible relationships among stress, prenatal depression, and herpes viral reactivation in pregnancy are understudied and the molecular pathways such as the neuroimmune biogenic amine pathway are unidentified. Chronic stress shifts the T helper-1 cell (Th1) cytokine profile to a Th2 profile, which favors virus induced pathogenesis and survival. Pregnancy is also associated with a similar Th2 dominance. In non-pregnant individuals, exposure to psychological or physical stress may be associated with latent herpes viral reactivation and could result in behavioral deficits and depression. Normally, type-1 cytokines such as Interferon-gamma (IFN -gamma) and inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) induce indoleamine-2, 3-dioxygenase (IDO) activation which inhibits herpes virus replication and reactivation, decreases tryptophan production, and alters phenylalanine /tyrosine metabolism. Thus it is possible that prenatal depression may occur from tryptophan stealing through the IDO pathway which results in decreased serotonin as well as increased risk for latent herpes viral reactivation.

The purpose of this study is to analyze the relationships among stress, herpes viral titers, depression, and metabolites of IDO activation, which involves tryptophan and guanosine-triphosphate-cyclohydrolase-1(GTP-CH1) pathways. This study builds on Influence of Lactation on Postpartum Stress and Immunity (Grant number: R01-NR05000) which investigated perinatal immune, endocrine, and inflammatory changes in pregnancy and the postpartum. A secondary data analysis was conducted on baseline data from women collected at 16 to 25 gestational weeks. This data set included some herpes viral titers, and additional ones were measured in stored plasma samples. The aim of this study is to examine relationships among stress, herpes viral reactivation, depression, and the IDO activation pathway. The results of this study provide information about the possible role of further relationships of prenatal stress, latent herpes viral reactivation, and depression mechanisms. The results will be important in health promotion and disease prevention during pregnancy.