Migration of Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Mesenchymal Stem Cells In Vitro Is Regulated by Stromal-Derived Factor-1-CXCR4 and Hepatocyte Growth Factor-c-met Axes and Involves Matrix Metalloproteinases



Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are increasingly being considered in cell-based therapeutic strategies for regeneration of various organs/tissues. However, the signals required for their homing and recruitment to injured sites are not yet fully understood. Because stromal-derived factor (SDF)-1 and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) become up-regulated during tissue/organ damage, in this study we examined whether these factors chemoattract ex vivo-expanded MSCs derived from bone marrow (BM) and umbilical cord blood (CB). Specifically, we investigated the expression by MSCs of CXCR4 and c-met, the cognate receptors of SDF-1 and HGF, and their functionality after early and late passages of MSCs. We also determined whether MSCs express matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), including membrane type 1 (MT1)-MMP, matrix-degrading enzymes that facilitate the trafficking of hematopoietic stem cells. We maintained expanded BM- or CB-derived MSCs for up to 15–18 passages with monitoring of the expression of 1) various tissue markers (cardiac and skeletal muscle, neural, liver, and endothelial cells), 2) functional CXCR4 and c-met, and 3) MMPs. We found that for up to 15–18 passages, both BM- and CB-derived MSCs 1) express mRNA for cardiac, muscle, neural, and liver markers, as well as the vascular endothelial (VE) marker VE-cadherin; 2) express CXCR4 and c-met receptors and are strongly attracted by SDF-1 and HGF gradients; 3) express MMP-2 and MT1-MMP transcripts and proteins; and 4) are chemo-invasive across the reconstituted basement membrane Matrigel. These in vitro results suggest that the SDF-1-CXCR4 and HGF-c-met axes, along with MMPs, may be involved in recruitment of expanded MSCs to damaged tissues.