Mesenchymal stromal cells and regulatory T cells: the Yin and Yang of peripheral tolerance?

Immunol Cell Biol. 2013 Jan;91(1):12-8. doi: 10.1038/icb.2012.60. Epub 2012 Nov 13.


In recent years, mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) and regulatory T cells (Tregs) have both garnered significant interest from immunologists worldwide, not least because of the potential application of both cell types in the treatment of many chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Although both MSCs and Tregs can be considered immunosuppressive in their own right, the induction of Tregs by activated MSCs is now a well-publicised phenomenon; however, only recently have the mechanisms involved in this induction started to become clear. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there exists a complex interplay between the two lineages leading to this potent inhibition of the host immune response. Cell contact, soluble mediators-including prostaglandin E(2) and transforming growth factor β-and indirect induction via manipulation of other antigen-presenting cells all appear to have vital roles in the interactions between MSCs and Tregs. Much still remains to be discovered before we have a full understanding of this important aspect of the immune response, but there have already been a multitude of clinical trials suggesting that MSC/Treg therapies could offer significant benefits in the treatment of both autoimmune disease and graft versus host disease. Although these therapies are still in their infancy, the synergy between MSCs and Tregs will undoubtedly yield future breakthroughs in the treatment of many debilitating conditions and usher in a new wave of targeted, cell-based therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / therapy
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods
  • Dinoprostone / immunology
  • Graft vs Host Disease / immunology
  • Graft vs Host Disease / therapy
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / immunology


  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Dinoprostone