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Int J Mol Med. 2017 Sep;40(3):739-747. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2017.3053. Epub 2017 Jul 3.

Valproic acid enforces the priming effect of sphingosine-1 phosphate on human mesenchymal stem cells.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul 05505, Republic of Korea.
Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Asan Institute for Life Sciences, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul 05505, Republic of Korea.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul 03080, Republic of Korea.


Engraftment and homing of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are modulated by priming factors including the bioactive lipid sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), by stimulating CXCR4 receptor signaling cascades. However, limited in vivo efficacy and the remaining priming molecules prior to administration of MSCs can provoke concerns regarding the efficiency and safety of MSC priming. Here, we showed that valproic acid (VPA), a histone deacetylase inhibitor, enforced the priming effect of S1P at a low dosage for human umbilical cord-derived MSCs (UC-MSCs). A DNA-methylation inhibitor, 5-azacytidine (5-Aza), and VPA increased the expression of CXCR4 in UC-MSCs. In particular, UC-MSCs primed with a suboptimal dose (50 nM) of S1P in combination with 0.5 mM VPA (VPA+S1P priming), but not 1 µM 5-Aza, significantly improved the migration activity in response to stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1) concomitant with the activation of both MAPKp42/44 and AKT signaling cascades. Both epigenetic regulatory compounds had little influence on cell surface marker phenotypes and the multi-potency of UC-MSCs. In contrast, VPA+S1P priming of UC-MSCs potentiated the proliferation, colony forming unit-fibroblast, and anti-inflammatory activities, which were severely inhibited in the case of 5-Aza treatment. Accordingly, the VPA+S1P-primed UC-MSCs exhibited upregulation of a subset of genes related to stem cell migration and anti-inflammation response. Thus, the present study demonstrated that VPA enables MSC priming with S1P at a low dosage by enhancing their migration and other therapeutic beneficial activities. This priming strategy for MSCs may provide a more efficient and safe application of MSCs for treating a variety of intractable disorders.

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