The immunomodulatory capacity of mesenchymal stem cells

Trends Mol Med. 2012 Feb;18(2):128-34. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2011.10.004. Epub 2011 Nov 25.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are currently being tested in clinical trials for the treatment of various diseases owing to the ease of generating and expanding these cells, the ability to differentiate them into various specialized mesenchymal tissue types and their immunosuppressive properties. However, their immunomodulatory potential remains controversial. This review describes the constitutive and regulated expression of molecules of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I antigen processing machinery (APM), co-stimulatory B7 molecules and HLA-G. Furthermore, this review focuses on the secretion of factors, such as cytokines, in mesenchymal stem cells, their functional role in mounting and controlling immune responses mediated by different immune cell subpopulations, their medical significance, and the obstacles that limit their clinical application.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B7 Antigens / genetics
  • B7 Antigens / immunology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • HLA-G Antigens / genetics
  • HLA-G Antigens / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / genetics
  • Immunologic Factors / immunology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / immunology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism


  • B7 Antigens
  • HLA-G Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Immunologic Factors