Immunosuppressive properties of mesenchymal stromal cell cultures derived from the limbus of human and rabbit corneas

Cytotherapy. 2014 Jan;16(1):64-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jcyt.2013.07.006. Epub 2013 Oct 1.


Background aims: Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) cultivated from the corneal limbus (L-MSCs) provide a potential source of cells for corneal repair. In the present study, we investigated the immunosuppressive properties of human L-MSCs and putative rabbit L-MSCs to develop an allogeneic therapy and animal model of L-MSC transplantation.

Methods: MSC-like cultures were established from the limbal stroma of human and rabbit (New Zealand white) corneas using either serum-supplemented medium or a commercial serum-free MSC medium (MesenCult-XF Culture Kit; Stem Cell Technologies, Melbourne, Australia). L-MSC phenotype was examined by flow cytometry. The immunosuppressive properties of L-MSC cultures were assessed using mixed leukocyte reactions. L-MSC cultures were also tested for their ability to support colony formation by primary limbal epithelial (LE) cells.

Results: Human L-MSC cultures were typically CD34⁻, CD45⁻ and HLA-DR⁻ and CD73⁺, CD90⁺, CD105⁺ and HLA-ABC⁺. High levels (>80%) of CD146 expression were observed for L-MSC cultures grown in serum-supplemented medium but not cultures grown in MesenCult-XF (approximately 1%). Rabbit L-MSCs were approximately 95% positive for major histocompatibility complex class I and expressed lower levels of major histocompatibility complex class II (approximately 10%), CD45 (approximately 20%), CD105 (approximately 60%) and CD90 (<10%). Human L-MSCs and rabbit L-MSCs suppressed human T-cell proliferation by up to 75%. Conversely, L-MSCs from either species stimulated a 2-fold to 3-fold increase in LE cell colony formation.

Conclusions: L-MSCs display immunosuppressive qualities in addition to their established non-immunogenic profile and stimulate LE cell growth in vitro across species boundaries. These results support the potential use of allogeneic L-MSCs in the treatment of corneal disorders and suggest that the rabbit would provide a useful pre-clinical model.

Keywords: cell therapy; corneal limbus; immunosuppression; mesenchymal stromal cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy
  • Cornea / immunology
  • Cornea / pathology*
  • Corneal Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Limbus Corneae / cytology*
  • Limbus Corneae / immunology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / immunology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology