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Cytotherapy. 2009;11(5):570-83. doi: 10.1080/14653240903079377.

Mesenchymal stromal cells promote or suppress the proliferation of T lymphocytes from cord blood and peripheral blood: the importance of low cell ratio and role of interleukin-6.

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Laboratory of Experimental Hematology, Institut Jules Bordet, Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Brussels, Belgium.



Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) have been shown to possess immunomodulatory functions and proposed as a tool for managing or preventing graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) as well as promoting clinical transplantation tolerance. We investigated the capacity of human bone marrow (BM) MSC to modulate the proliferation of T cells obtained from peripheral blood (PB) and umbilical cord blood (CB). We addressed the importance of the MSC:T-cell ratio, requirement for cell contact and impact of soluble factors on the MSC-mediated effects. We also analyzed whether regulatory T cells could be modulated by MSC in co-cultures.


The effect of different MSC concentrations on T-cell proliferation induced by allogeneic, mitogenic or CD3/CD28 stimulation was analyzed using bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation and carboxyfluorescein diacetate-succinimidyl ester (CFDA-SE) labeling. The level of regulatory T cells was assessed using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and flow cytometry analysis.


MSC induced a dose- and contact-dependent inhibition of T-cell proliferation but lymphocytes from CB and PB were differentially affected. At low concentrations, MSC supported both CB and PB T-cell proliferation, rather than inhibiting their proliferation. This supportive effect was contact independent and soluble factors such interleukin-6 (IL-6) appeared to be involved. Interestingly, among the expanded T-cell population in both CB and PB, regulatory T cells were increased and were a part of the new cells promoted by MSC at low doses.


MSC represent an attractive tool for reducing the lymphocyte response by inhibiting T-cell activation and proliferation as well as promoting tolerance by maintaining and promoting the expansion of regulatory cells. Nevertheless, the dual ability of MSC to either sustain or suppress T-cell proliferation according to conditions should be considered in the context of clinical applications.

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