Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells ameliorate autoimmune enteropathy independently of regulatory T cells

Stem Cells. 2008 Jul;26(7):1913-9. doi: 10.1634/stemcells.2007-0790. Epub 2008 Apr 17.


Cell-based tolerogenic therapy is a relatively new approach for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been shown to be potent immunomodulatory agents in a number of experimental and clinical scenarios; however, their use in various autoimmune diseases is undefined. Herein, we report the efficacy of MSC transplantation in a multiorgan autoimmunity model. Mice with defective peripheral tolerance caused by a deficiency in regulatory T cells were used as a testbed for therapy. After screening multiple target tissues of autoimmune attack, we observed an MSC-specific improvement in the histopathology of the distal ileum of treated mice. We then showed that MSCs can reduce mesenteric lymph node (MLN) cellularity in autoimmune mice during active disease and decrease activated T-cell populations in the MLN. Trafficking studies using enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP)-reporter MSCs revealed no appreciable engraftment in the intestine, but it did reveal the presence of eGFP+ cells organized in clusters within the MLN, as well as ancillary nodes. Semiquantitative analysis showed no difference in the number of clusters; however, eGFP+ cells in MLNs compared with ancillary nodes had distinct fibroblastoid morphology and formed a network with neighboring eGFP+ cells. Finally, we show evidence that transplantation of MSCs caused global immunosuppression, as measured by increased CD4+ CD8+ thymocyte production and serum interleukin-10 and decreased serum interferon-gamma. These data implicate the intestine as a new site of MSC tolerance induction and should motivate additional studies evaluating the use of MSCs as a treatment for autoimmune enteropathies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Inflammation
  • Intestinal Diseases / immunology*
  • Intestinal Diseases / metabolism*
  • Lymph Nodes / metabolism
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Green Fluorescent Proteins