Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Induce Peculiar Alternatively Activated Macrophages Capable of Dampening Both Innate and Adaptive Immune Responses

Laura Chiossone, Romana Conte, Grazia Maria Spaggiari, Martina Serra, Cristina Romei, Francesca Bellora, Flavio Becchetti, Antonio Andaloro, Lorenzo Moretta, Cristina Bottino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) support hematopoiesis and exert immunoregulatory activities. Here, we analyzed the functional outcome of the interactions between MSCs and monocytes/macrophages. We showed that MSCs supported the survival of monocytes that underwent differentiation into macrophages, in the presence of macrophage colony-stimulating factor. However, MSCs skewed their polarization toward a peculiar M2-like functional phenotype (MMSC), through a prostaglandin E2-dependent mechanism. MMSC were characterized by high expression of scavenger receptors, increased phagocytic capacity, and high production of interleukin (IL)-10 and transforming growth factor-β. These cytokines contributed to the immunoregulatory properties of MMSC, which differed from those of typical IL-4-induced macrophages (M2). In particular, interacting with activated natural killer (NK) cells, MMSC inhibited both the expression of activating molecules such as NKp44, CD69, and CD25 and the production of IFNγ, while M2 affected only IFNγ production. Moreover, MMSC inhibited the proliferation of CD8+ T cells in response to allogeneic stimuli and induced the expansion of regulatory T cells (Tregs). Toll-like receptor engagement reverted the phenotypic and functional features of MMSC to those of M1 immunostimulatory/proinflammatory macrophages. Overall our data show that MSCs induce the generation of a novel type of alternatively activated macrophages capable of suppressing both innate and adaptive immune responses. These findings may help to better understand the role of MSCs in healthy tissues and inflammatory diseases including cancer, and provide clues for novel therapeutic approaches. Stem Cells 2016;34:1909–1921.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1909-1921
Number of pages13
JournalStem Cells
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Macrophages
  • Mesenchymal stromal cells
  • NK cells
  • PGE2
  • T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Medicine


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