Mitochondrial Oxidative Stress Reduces the Immunopotency of Mesenchymal Stromal Cells in Adults With Coronary Artery Disease

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Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are promising therapeutic strategies for coronary artery disease; however, donor-related variability in cell quality is a main cause of discrepancies in preclinical studies. In vitro, MSCs from individuals with coronary artery disease have reduced ability to suppress activated T-cells. The mechanisms underlying the altered immunomodulatory capacity of MSCs in the context of atherosclerosis remain elusive.


The aim of this study was to assess the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in the impaired immunomodulatory properties of MSCs from patients with atherosclerosis.

Methods and Results:

Adipose tissue–derived MSCs were isolated from atherosclerotic (n=38) and nonatherosclerotic (n=42) donors. MSCs:CD4+T-cell suppression was assessed in allogeneic coculture systems. Compared with nonatherosclerotic-MSCs, atherosclerotic-MSCs displayed higher levels of both intracellular (P=0.006) and mitochondrial (P=0.03) reactive oxygen species reflecting altered mitochondrial function. The increased mitochondrial reactive oxygen species levels of atherosclerotic-MSCs promoted a phenotypic switch characterized by enhanced glycolysis and an altered cytokine secretion (interleukin-6 P<0.0001, interleukin-8/C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 8 P=0.04, and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1/chemokine ligand 2 P=0.01). Furthermore, treatment of atherosclerotic-MSCs with the reactive oxygen species scavenger N-acetyl-L-cysteine reduced the levels of interleukin-6, interleukin-8/C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 8, and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1/chemokine ligand 2 in the MSC secretome and improved MSCs immunosuppressive capacity (P=0.03).


An impaired mitochondrial function of atherosclerotic-MSCs underlies their altered secretome and reduced immunopotency. Interventions aimed at restoring the mitochondrial function of atherosclerotic-MSCs improve their in vitro immunosuppressive ability and may translate into enhanced therapeutic efficiency.

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