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Stem Cell Res Ther. 2017 Jul 4;8(1):157. doi: 10.1186/s13287-017-0610-6.

Antimicrobial peptides secreted by equine mesenchymal stromal cells inhibit the growth of bacteria commonly found in skin wounds.

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Baker Institute for Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14850, USA.
Baker Institute for Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14850, USA.



The prevalence of chronic skin wounds in humans is high, and treatment is often complicated by the presence of pathogenic bacteria. Therefore, safe and innovative treatments to reduce the bacterial load in cutaneous wounds are needed. Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) are known to provide paracrine signals that act on resident skin cells to promote wound healing, but their potential antibacterial activities are not well described. The present study was designed to examine the antibacterial properties of MSC from horses, as this animal model offers a readily translatable model for MSC therapies in humans. Specifically, we aimed to (i) evaluate the in vitro effects of equine MSC on the growth of representative gram-negative and gram-positive bacterial species commonly found in skin wounds and (ii) define the mechanisms by which MSC inhibit bacterial growth.


MSC were isolated from the peripheral blood of healthy horses. Gram-negative E. coli and gram-positive S. aureus were cultured in the presence of MSC and MSC conditioned medium (CM), containing all factors secreted by MSC. Bacterial growth was measured by plating bacteria and counting viable colonies or by reading the absorbance of bacterial cultures. Bacterial membrane damage was detected by incorporation of N-phenyl-1-naphthylamine (NPN). Antimicrobial peptide (AMP) gene and protein expression by equine MSC were determined by RT-PCR and Western blot analysis, respectively. Blocking of AMP activity of MSC CM was achieved using AMP-specific antibodies.


We found that equine MSC and MSC CM inhibit the growth of E. coli and S. aureus, and that MSC CM depolarizes the cell membranes of these bacteria. In addition, we found that equine MSC CM contains AMPs, and blocking these AMPs with antibodies reduces the effects of MSC CM on bacteria.


Our results demonstrate that equine MSC inhibit bacterial growth and secrete factors that compromise the membrane integrity of bacteria commonly found in skin wounds. We also identified four specific AMPs produced by equine MSC. The secretion of AMPs may contribute to the value of MSC as a therapy for cutaneous wounds in both horses and humans.


Antimicrobial peptides; Equine mesenchymal stromal cells

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