Generation of CD4+ or CD8+ regulatory T cells upon mesenchymal stem cell-lymphocyte interaction

Claudia Prevosto, Marta Zancolli, Paolo Canevali, Maria Raffaella Zocchi, Alessandro Poggi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objectives: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have been proposed as a way to treat graft-versus-host disease based on their immunosuppressive effect. We analyzed whether regulatory T cells can be generated in co-cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and MSC. Design and Methods: MSC were obtained from the bone marrow of four healthy donors and nine patients with acute leukemia in complete remission following chemotherapy. Short-term (4 days) co-cultures of MSC and autologous or allogeneic PBMC were set up, the lymphocytes harvested and their regulatory activity assessed. Results: Lymphocytes harvested from MSC-PBMC co-cultures strongly inhibit (up to 95%) mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR), recall to alloantigen, and CD3- or phytohemagglutinin-induced lymphocyte proliferation. These lymphocytes, termed regulatory cells (Regc), were all CD45+CD2+ with variable proportions of CD25+ cells (range 40-75% n=10) and a minor fraction expressed CTLA4 (2-4%, n=10) or glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factcor receptor-related gene (0.5-4% n=10). Both CD4+ and CD8+ Regc purified from MSC-PBMC co-cultures strongly inhibited lymphocyte proliferation at a 1:100 Regc:responder cell ratio. CD4+ Regc expressed high levels of forkhead box P3 (Foxp3) mRNA while CD8+ Regc did not. The effectiveness of Regc, whether CD4+ or CD8+, was 100-fold higher than that of CD4+CD25+high regulatory T cells. Regc were also generated from highly purified CD25- PBMC or CD4+ or CD8+ T cell subsets. Soluble factors, such as interleukin-10, transforming growth factor-β and prostaglandin B did not appear to be involved in the generation of Regc or in the Reg c-mediated immunosuppressive effect. Furthermore, cyclosporine A did not affect Regc generation or the immunosuppression induced by Regc. Interpretation and Conclusions: These findings indicate that powerful regulatory CD4+ or CD8+ lymphocytes are generated in co-cultures of PBMC with MSC. This strongly suggests that these regulatory cells may amplify the reported MSC-mediated immunosuppressive effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)881-888
Number of pages8
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


  • Lymphocyte triggering
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Regulatory CD4 T cells
  • Regulatory CD8 T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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