IFNβ enhances mesenchymal stromal (Stem) cells immunomodulatory function through STAT1-3 activation and mTOR-associated promotion of glucose metabolism

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Administration of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) ameliorate experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS), at both clinical and neuropathological levels. The therapeutic properties of MSC in EAE are mainly mediated by the modulation of pathogenic immune response, but other neurotropic effects, including decreased demyelination and axonal loss as well as promotion of tissue repair, play also a role. Properly controlled phase II clinical trials to explore the potential of MSC transplantation as a treatment for MS are underway. Interferon beta (IFNβ) is an approved treatment for relapsing-remitting and secondary progressive MS. Here, we explored the possibility that IFNβ might influence the therapeutic potential of MSC, in view of possible synergistic effects as add-on therapy. IFNβ enhanced the immunomodulatory functions of MSC and induced the expression of secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (Slpi) and hepatocyte growth factor (Hgf), two soluble mediators involved in immune and regenerative functions of MSC. At molecular level, IFNβ induced a rapid and transient phosphorylation of STAT1 and STAT3, the transcription factors responsible for Slpi and Hgf induction. Concomitantly, IFNβ dynamically affected the activity of mTOR, a key checkpoint in the control of metabolic pathways. Indeed, the impairment of mTOR activity observed early upon exposure to IFNβ, was followed by a long-lasting induction of mTOR signaling, that was associated with an increased glycolytic capacity in MSC. When induced to switch their energetic metabolism towards glycolysis, MSC showed an improved ability to control T-cell proliferation. These results suggest that modifications of MSC energetic metabolism induced by IFNβ may contribute to promote MSC immunomodulatory function and support a role for metabolic pathways in the therapeutic function of MSC. Altogether, these findings support the idea of a combined treatment for MS, in which the immunomodulatory and possibly regenerative activity of MSC could be enhanced by the administration of IFNβ.

Original languageEnglish
Article number85
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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