Author(s): Nguyen TM, Arthur A, Hayball JD, Gronthos S
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Abstract Mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSC) express the contact-dependent erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular (Eph) receptor tyrosine kinase family and their cognate ephrin ligands, which are known to regulate thymocyte maturation and selection, T-cell transendothelial migration, activation, co-stimulation, and proliferation. However, the contribution of Eph/ephrin molecules in mediating human MSC suppression of activated T-cells remains to be determined. In the present study, we showed that EphB2 and ephrin-B2 are expressed by ex vivo expanded MSC, while the corresponding ligands, ephrin-B1 and EphB4, respectively, are highly expressed by T-cells. Initial studies demonstrated that EphB2-Fc and ephrin-B2-Fc molecules suppressed T-cell proliferation in allogeneic mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR) assays compared with human IgG-treated controls. While the addition of a third-party MSC population demonstrated dramatic suppression of T-cell proliferation responses in the MLR, blocking the function of EphB2 or EphB4 receptors using inhibitor binding peptides significantly increased T-cell proliferation. Consistent with these observations, shRNA EphB2 or ephrin-B2 knockdown expression in MSC reduced their ability to inhibit T-cell proliferation. Importantly, the expression of immunosuppressive factors, indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase, transforming growth factor-β1, and inducible nitric oxide synthase expressed by MSC, was up-regulated after stimulation with EphB4 and ephrin-B1 in the presence of interferon (IFN)-γ, compared with untreated controls. Conversely, key factors involved in T-cell activation and proliferation, such as interleukin (IL)-2, IFN-γ, tumor necrosis factor-α, and IL-17, were down-regulated by T-cells treated with EphB2 or ephrin-B2 compared with untreated controls. Studies utilizing signaling inhibitors revealed that inhibition of T-cell proliferation is partly mediated through EphB2-induced ephrin-B1 reverse signaling or ephrin-B2-mediated EphB4 forward signaling by activating Src, PI3Kinase, Abl, and JNK kinase pathways, activated by tyrosine phosphorylation. Taken together, these observations suggest that EphB/ephrin-B interactions play an important role in mediating human MSC inhibition of activated T cells.
This article was published in Stem Cells Dev
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Cellular Immunology