Background: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) play a crucial role in hematopoietic development and have been shown to exert a powerful immunosuppressive effect. In this study, we investigated the effect of bone marrow MSC on the differentiation and function of peripheral blood monocytes into dendritic cells (DCs).
Methods: Human MSCs, generated from normal bone marrow, were added to peripheral blood monocytes stimulated in vitro with granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor and interleukin-4 to become DCs. Monocytes were then examined for the expression of markers characteristic of DCs and their ability to stimulate allogeneic T cells. In addition, the effect of MSCs on the cell cycle of monocyte-derived DCs and the expression of various cell cycle proteins were analyzed by cytometric analysis and Western blotting with specific antibodies.
Results: MSCs blocked the differentiation of monocytes into DCs and impaired their antigen-presenting ability. This resulted from a block of monocytes from entering the G1 phase of the cell cycle with a progressive number of cells accumulating in the G0 phase. Cyclin D2 was downregulated. However, differently from what was observed in T-cells stimulated in the presence of MSCs, the expression of p27 was found decreased, suggesting the involvement of similar but not identical pathways.
Conclusions: We conclude that MSCs impair monocyte differentiation and function by interfering with the cell cycle. These findings imply that MSC-induced immunosuppression might be a side product of a more general antiproliferative effect.