Here, the effect of CD14(+) monocytes on human umbilical cord matrix stem cell (hUC-MSC)-mediated immunosuppression was studied in vitro. hUC-MSCs exerted a potent inhibitory effect on the proliferation and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) secretion capacities of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells in response to anti-CD3/CD28 stimulation. Transwell co-culture system revealed that the suppressive effect was primarily mediated by soluble factors. Addition of prostaglandin synthesis inhibitors (indomethacin or NS-398) almost completely abrogated the immunosuppression activity of hUC-MSCs, identifying prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) as an important soluble mediator. CD14(+) monocytes were found to be able to enhance significantly the immunosuppressive effect of hUC-MSCs in a dose-dependent fashion. Moreover, the inflammatory cytokine IL-1beta, either exogenously added or produced by CD14(+) monocytes in culture, could trigger expression of high levels of PGE(2) by hUC-MSCs, whereas inclusion of the IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA) in the culture down-regulated not only PGE(2) expression, but also reversed the promotional effect of CD14(+) monocytes and partially restored CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell proliferation and IFN-gamma secretion. Our data demonstrate an important role of monocytes in the hUC-MSC-induced immunomodulation, which may have important implications in future efforts to explore the clinical potentials of hUC-MSCs.
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