Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are non-haematopoietic stem cells that are capable of differentiating into tissues of mesodermal origin. MSC play an important role in supporting the development of fetal and adult haematopoiesis. More recently, MSC have also been found to exhibit inhibitory effect on T cell responses. However, there is little information on the mechanism of this immunosuppression and our study addresses this issue by targeting T cell functions at various level of immune responses. We have generated MSC from human adult bone marrow (BM) and investigated their immunoregulatory function at different phases of T cell responses. MSC showed the ability to inhibit mitogen (CD3/CD28 microbeads)-activated T cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. In order to evaluate the specificity of this immunosuppression, the proliferation of CD4(+) and CD8(+) cells were measured. MSC equally inhibit CD4(+) and CD8(+) subpopulations of T cells in response to PHA stimulation. However, the antiproliferative effect of MSC is not due to the inhibition of T cell activation. The expression of early activation markers of T cells, namely CD25 and CD69 were not significantly altered by MSC at 24, 48 and 72h. Furthermore, the immunosuppressive effect of MSC mainly targets T cell proliferation rather than their effector function since cytotoxicity of T cells is not affected. This work demonstrates that the immunosuppressive effect of MSC is exclusively a consequence of an anti-proliferative activity, which targets T cells of different subpopulations. For this reason, they have the potential to be exploited in the control of unwanted immune responses such as graft versus host disease (GVHD) and autoimmunity.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.