Metabolomics and cytokine profiling of mesenchymal stromal cells identify markers predictive of T-cell suppression

Cytotherapy. 2022 Feb;24(2):137-148. doi: 10.1016/j.jcyt.2021.08.002. Epub 2021 Oct 22.


Background aims: Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) have shown great promise in the field of regenerative medicine, as many studies have shown that MSCs possess immunomodulatory function. Despite this promise, no MSC therapies have been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration. This lack of successful clinical translation is due in part to MSC heterogeneity and a lack of critical quality attributes. Although MSC indoleamine 2,3-dioxygnease (IDO) activity has been shown to correlate with MSC function, multiple predictive markers may be needed to better predict MSC function.

Methods: Three MSC lines (two bone marrow-derived, one induced pluripotent stem cell-derived) were expanded to three passages. At the time of harvest for each passage, cell pellets were collected for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and ultra-performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (MS), and media were collected for cytokine profiling. Harvested cells were also cryopreserved for assessing function using T-cell proliferation and IDO activity assays. Linear regression was performed on functional data against NMR, MS and cytokines to reduce the number of important features, and partial least squares regression (PLSR) was used to obtain predictive markers of T-cell suppression based on variable importance in projection scores.

Results: Significant functional heterogeneity (in terms of T-cell suppression and IDO activity) was observed between the three MSC lines, as were donor-dependent differences based on passage. Omics characterization revealed distinct differences between cell lines using principal component analysis. Cell lines separated along principal component one based on tissue source (bone marrow-derived versus induced pluripotent stem cell-derived) for NMR, MS and cytokine profiles. PLSR modeling of important features predicted MSC functional capacity with NMR (R2 = 0.86), MS (R2 = 0.83), cytokines (R2 = 0.70) and a combination of all features (R2 = 0.88).

Conclusions: The work described here provides a platform for identifying markers for predicting MSC functional capacity using PLSR modeling that could be used as release criteria and guide future manufacturing strategies for MSCs and other cell therapies.

Keywords: cell manufacturing; critical quality attributes; mesenchymal stem/stromal cells; partial least squares regression modeling; potency.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow Cells
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells*
  • Metabolomics
  • T-Lymphocytes*


  • Cytokines