Understanding the regulatory networks which control specific macrophage phenotypes is essential in identifying novel targets to correct macrophage mediated clinical disorders, often accompanied by inflammatory events. Since mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) have been shown to play key roles in regulating immune functions predominantly via a large number of secreted products, we used a fractional factorial approach to streamline experimental evaluation of MSC mediated inflammatory macrophage regulation. Our macrophage reprogramming metrics, human bone marrow MSC attenuation of macrophage pro-inflammatory M1 TNFα secretion and simultaneous enhanced expression of the M2 macrophage marker, CD206, were used as analysis endpoints. Objective evaluation of a panel of MSC secreted mediators indicated that PGE2 alone was sufficient in facilitating macrophage reprogramming, while IL4 only provided partial reprogramming. Inhibiting stromal cell PGE2 secretion with Indomethacin, reversed the macrophage reprogramming effect. PGE2 reprogramming was mediated through the EP4 receptor and indirectly through the CREB signaling pathway as GSK3 specific inhibitors induced M1 macrophages to express CD206. This reprogramming pathway functioned independently from the M1 suppression pathway, as neither CREB nor GSK3 inhibition reversed PGE2 TNF-α secretion attenuation. In conclusion, fractional factorial experimental design identified stromal derived PGE2 as the factor most important in facilitating macrophage reprogramming, albeit via two unique pathways. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2014;111: 2239–2251. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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