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Mol Ther. 2012 Jan;20(1):178-86. doi: 10.1038/mt.2011.192. Epub 2011 Sep 27.

Aire controls mesenchymal stem cell-mediated suppression in chronic colitis.

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Department of Surgery, Center for Engineering in Medicine and Surgical Services, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are emerging as a promising immunotherapeutic, based largely on their overt suppression of T lymphocytes under inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. While paracrine cross-talk between MSCs and T cells has been well-studied, an intrinsic transcriptional switch that programs MSCs for immunomodulation has remained undefined. Here we show that bone marrow-derived MSCs require the transcriptional regulator Aire to suppress T cell-mediated pathogenesis in a mouse model of chronic colitis. Surprisingly, Aire did not control MSC suppression of T cell proliferation in vitro. Instead, Aire reduced T cell mitochondrial reductase by negatively regulating a proinflammatory cytokine, early T cell activation factor (Eta)-1. Neutralization of Eta-1 enabled Aire(-/-) MSCs to ameliorate colitis, reducing the number of infiltrating effector T cells in the colon, and normalizing T cell reductase levels. We propose that Aire represents an early molecular switch imposing a suppressive MSC phenotype via regulation of Eta-1. Monitoring Aire expression in MSCs may thus be a critical parameter for clinical use.

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