Mitochondrial transfer of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived mesenchymal stem cells to airway epithelial cells attenuates cigarette smoke-induced damage

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2014 Sep;51(3):455-65. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2013-0529OC.


Transplantation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) holds great promise in the repair of cigarette smoke (CS)-induced lung damage in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Because CS leads to mitochondrial dysfunction, we aimed to investigate the potential benefit of mitochondrial transfer from human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived MSCs (iPSC-MSCs) to CS-exposed airway epithelial cells in vitro and in vivo. Rats were exposed to 4% CS for 1 hour daily for 56 days. At Days 29 and, human iPSC-MSCs or adult bone marrow-derived MSCs (BM-MSCs) were administered intravenously to CS-exposed rats. CS-exposed rats exhibited severe alveolar destruction with a higher mean linear intercept (Lm) than sham air-exposed rats (P < 0.001) that was attenuated in the presence of iPSC-MSCs or BM-MSCs (P < 0.01). The attenuation of Lm value and the severity of fibrosis was greater in the iPSC-MSC-treated group than in the BM-MSC-treated group (P < 0.05). This might have contributed to the novel observation of mitochondrial transfer from MSCs to rat airway epithelial cells in lung sections exposed to CS. In vitro studies further revealed that transfer of mitochondria from iPSC-MSCs to bronchial epithelial cells (BEAS-2B) was more effective than from BM-MSCs, with preservation of adenosine triphosphate contents. This distinct mitochondrial transfer occurred via the formation of tunneling nanotubes. Inhibition of tunneling nanotube formation blocked mitochondrial transfer. Our findings indicate a higher mitochondrial transfer capacity of iPSC-MSCs than BM-MSCs to rescue CS-induced mitochondrial damage. iPSC-MSCs may thus hold promise for the development of cell therapy in COPD.

Keywords: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; cigarette smoke; induced pluripotent stem cell; mitochondrial transfer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Separation
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / drug effects
  • Smoke / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco


  • Smoke