• Tolerance;
  • Suppression;
  • Anergy;
  • Stem cells;
  • T cells;
  • Notch


Bone marrow (BM)-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent, nonhemopoietic progenitors that also possess regulatory activity on immune effector cells through different mechanisms. We demonstrate that human BM-derived MSCs expressed high levels of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) 3 and 4, which are both functional, as shown by the ability of their ligands to induce nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) activity, as well as the production of interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, and CXCL10. Of note, ligation of TLR3 and TLR4 on MSCs also inhibited the ability of these cells to suppress the proliferation of T cells, without influencing their immunophenotype or differentiation potential. The TLR triggering effects appeared to be related to the impairment of MSC signaling to Notch receptors in T cells. Indeed, MSCs expressed the Notch ligand Jagged-1, and TLR3 or TLR4 ligation resulted in its strong downregulation. Moreover, anti-Jagged-1 neutralizing antibody and N[N-(3,5-difluorophenacetyl-l-alanyl)]-S-phenylglycine t-butyl ester (DAPT), an inhibitor of Notch signaling, hampered the suppressive activity of MSCs on T-cell proliferation. These data suggest that TLR3 and TLR4 expression on MSCs may provide an effective mechanism to block the immunosuppressive activity of MSCs and therefore to restore an efficient T-cell response in the course of dangerous infections, such as those sustained by double-stranded RNA viruses or Gram-negative bacteria, respectively.

Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.