Department of Biological Sciences

Karen Coats

Office: 116 Allen Hall
Phone: (662) 325-7400



B.S. Microbiology, SE Louisiana University
M.S. Microbiology, SE Louisiana University
Ph.D. Vet Med Sciences, Louisiana St. University

Statement of Research Interests  

Pediatric AIDS remains an important component of the AIDS pandemic, resulting mainly from vertical transmission of HIV. The use of AZT by HIV-infected pregnant women in the U.S. has dramatically reduced the rate of maternal-fetal transmission, but vertical transmission rates remain very high in underdeveloped countries where the use of AZT is not available. Many immunomodulators are produced in the placenta, including cytokines and chemokines that are normally involved in the maintenance of pregnancy. Successful pregnancy requires precise regulation of immunomodulators with suppression of inflammatory Th1 cytokines early in pregnancy. HIV infections are known to alter cytokine profiles in infected individuals, and Th1 cytokines were shown to be elevated in the trophoblastic cells of HIV-infected pregnant women. Placental immunology and vertical transmission of HIV is an important area of investigation. The feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)-infected cat is an accepted animal model for the study of AIDS, including vertical transmission of the virus, due to the genetic relatedness of FIV to HIV and the biological similarities of the infection process. Thus, the FIV-infected cat may provide a useful model for the study of placental immunological parameters that may predispose transplacental transmission. To date, the relationship between feline placental immunology and vertical transmission of FIV is unresolved. My laboratory is investigating whether the expression of selected inflammatory Th1 cytokines, �-chemokines, and chemokine receptors differs in the placentae of FIV-infected and uninfected cats. We are also evaluating expression of FIV in placental cells, fetal tissues, and full-term kittens to document in utero infection and to determine whether there is a correlation between levels of immunomodulators, levels of virus expression, and transplacental transmission in these animals. This project may identify an important small-animal model for the study of the role of placental immunology in the vertical transmission of HIV.

Recent Publications

 *Scott, V.L. Shack, L.A., Eells, J.B., Ryan, P.L., Donaldson, J.R., and Coats, K.S. 2011. Immunomodulator expression in trophoblasts from the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)-infected cat. Virol. J. 8(1):336.

 *Scott, V.L., Wallace, K., Mays, S., Ryan, P., and Coats, K.S.  2011. An immunohistochemical assay to detect trophoblasts in frozen feline placenta. J. Vet. Diagn. Invest. 23:275-281.

 *Scott, V.L., *Boudreaux, C.E., Lockett, N.N., *Clay, B.T., and Coats, K.S. 2011. Cytokine dysregulation in early- and late-term placentas from feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)-infected Cats. Am. J. Reprod. Immunol. 65(5):480-491.

 *Lockett, N.N., *Scott, V.L., *Boudreaux, C.E., *Clay, B.T., Pruett, S.B., and Ryan, P.L., and Coats, K.S. 2010.  Expression of regulatory T cell (Treg) activation markers in endometrial tissues from early and late pregnancy in the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)-infected cat. Placenta 31:796-802.

 Coats, K.S., *Boudreaux, C.E., *Clay, B.T., *Lockett, N.N., and *Scott, V.L. 2010. Placental immunopathology in the FIV-infected cat: a role for inflammation in compromised pregnancy? Vet. Immunol. Immunopathol. 134(1-2):39-47. (Invited mini-review)

 *Boudreaux, C.E., *Lockett, N.N., ^Chemerys, D.N., *Clay, B.T., *Scott,V.L., Willeford, B., Brown, T., and Coats, K.S. 2009. Maternal hematological and virological characteristics during early feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection of cats as predictors of fetal infection and reproductive outcome at early gestation. Vet Immunol Immunopathol 131:290-297.

 *Scott, V.L., Burgess, S.C., Shack, L.A., *Lockett, N.N., and Coats, K.S. 2008.  Expression of CD134 and CXCR4 mRNA in term placentas from FIV-infected and control cats. Vet. Immunol. Immunopathol. 123 (1-2):90-96