Mesenchymal stromal cells-derived extracellular vesicles reprogramme macrophages in ARDS models through the miR-181a-5p-PTEN-pSTAT5-SOCS1 axis

Thorax. 2023 Jun;78(6):617-630. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2021-218194. Epub 2022 Aug 10.


Rationale: A better understanding of the mechanism of action of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) and their extracellular vesicles (EVs) is needed to support their use as novel therapies for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Macrophages are important mediators of ARDS inflammatory response. Suppressor of cytokine signalling (SOCS) proteins are key regulators of the macrophage phenotype switch. We therefore investigated whether SOCS proteins are involved in mediation of the MSC effect on human macrophage reprogramming.

Methods: Human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) were stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or plasma samples from patients with ARDS (these samples were previously classified into hypo-inflammatory and hyper-inflammatory phenotype) and treated with MSC conditioned medium (CM) or EVs. Protein expression was measured by Western blot. EV micro RNA (miRNA) content was determined by miRNA sequencing. In vivo: LPS-injured C57BL/6 mice were given EVs isolated from MSCs in which miR-181a had been silenced by miRNA inhibitor or overexpressed using miRNA mimic.

Results: EVs were the key component of MSC CM responsible for anti-inflammatory modulation of human macrophages. EVs significantly reduced secretion of tumour necrosis factor-α and interleukin-8 by LPS-stimulated or ARDS plasma-stimulated MDMs and this was dependent on SOCS1. Transfer of miR-181a in EVs downregulated phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) and subsequently activated phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 (pSTAT5) leading to upregulation of SOCS1 in macrophages. In vivo, EVs alleviated lung injury and upregulated pSTAT5 and SOCS1 expression in alveolar macrophages in a miR181-dependent manner. Overexpression of miR-181a in MSCs significantly enhanced therapeutic efficacy of EVs in this model.

Conclusion: miR-181a-PTEN-pSTAT5-SOCS1 axis is a novel pathway responsible for immunomodulatory effect of MSC EVs in ARDS.

Keywords: ARDS; macrophage biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extracellular Vesicles* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / metabolism
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / genetics
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / metabolism
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / therapy
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 1 Protein / genetics
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 1 Protein / metabolism
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling Proteins / metabolism


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • MicroRNAs
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling Proteins
  • SOCS1 protein, human
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 1 Protein
  • PTEN protein, human
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • Socs1 protein, mouse