Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs): role as guardians of inflammation

Mol Ther. 2012 Jan;20(1):14-20. doi: 10.1038/mt.2011.211. Epub 2011 Oct 18.


Recent observations have demonstrated that one of the functions of mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) is to serve as guardians against excessive inflammatory responses. One mode of action of the cells is that they are activated to express the interleukin (IL)-1 receptor antagonist. A second mode of action is to create a negative feedback loop in which tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and other proinflammatory cytokines from resident macrophages activate MSCs to secrete the multifunctional anti-inflammatory protein TNF-α stimulated gene/protein 6 (TSG-6). The TSG-6 then reduces nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) signaling in the resident macrophages and thereby modulates the cascade of proinflammatory cytokines. A third mode of action is to create a second negative feedback loop whereby lipopolysaccharide, TNF-α, nitric oxide, and perhaps other damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) from injured tissues and macrophages activate MSCs to secrete prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)). The PGE(2) converts macrophages to the phenotype that secretes IL-10. There are also suggestions that MSCs may produce anti-inflammatory effects through additional modes of action including activation to express the antireactive oxygen species protein stanniocalcin-1.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / administration & dosage
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / therapy
  • Macrophage Activation / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Stem Cell Research


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • TNFAIP6 protein, human