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Keywords:

  • Mesenchymal stem cells;
  • Senescence;
  • Cellular therapy;
  • Immunotherapy

Abstract

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) possess unique paracrine and immunosuppressive properties, which make them useful candidates for cellular therapy. Here, we address how cellular senescence influences the therapeutic potential of human MSCs (hMSCs). Senescence was induced in bone marrow-derived hMSC cultures with gamma irradiation. Control and senescent cells were tested for their immunoregulatory activity in vitro and in vivo, and an extensive molecular characterization of the phenotypic changes induced by senescence was performed. We also compared the gene expression profiles of senescent hMSCs with a collection of hMSCs used in an ongoing clinical study of Graft Versus Host disease (GVHD). Our results show that senescence induces extensive phenotypic changes in hMSCs and abrogates their protective activity in a murine model of LPS-induced lethal endotoxemia. Although senescent hMSCs retain an ability to regulate the inflammatory response on macrophages in vitro, and, in part retain their capacity to significantly inhibit lymphocyte proliferation, they have a severely impaired migratory capacity in response to proinflammatory signals, which is associated with an inhibition of the AP-1 pathway. Additionally, expression analysis identified PLEC, C8orf48, TRPC4, and ZNF14, as differentially regulated genes in senescent hMSCs that were similarly regulated in those hMSCs which failed to produce a therapeutic effect in a GVHD trial. All the observed phenotypic alterations were confirmed in replicative-senescent hMSCs. In conclusion, this study highlights important changes in the immunomodulatory phenotype of senescent hMSCs and provides candidate gene signatures which may be useful to evaluate the therapeutic potential of hMSCs used in future clinical studies. Stem Cells 2014;32:1865–1877