Among the mechanisms by which somatic stem cells may improve left ventricular function in ischaemic heart disease are pro-survival stimuli mediated by secreted factors. This phenomenon is frequently referred to, but remains poorly understood. We therefore investigated the non-regenerative cardioprotective effects of cord blood mesenchymal stromal cells (CBMSCs) in vitro and sought to identify relevant intracellular signalling pathways.METHODS:
Conditioned medium from CBMSCs and fibroblasts was prepared, and secreted factors were analysed by Luminex® immunobead assay. Murine cardiomyocyte-derived HL-1 cells were subjected to simulated ischaemia by glucose and serum deprivation and hypoxia in CBMSC-conditioned or cell-free control medium or in medium conditioned by foreskin fibroblasts. The proportions of vital, apoptotic and necrotic cells (poly-caspase activity, annexin V and ethidium homodimer-III staining) were quantified using a high-content imaging system. Metabolic activity and proliferation rate were determined via 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium and 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine assays. Phosphorylation of Akt, extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK)1/2, signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) and glycogen synthase kinase 3β was determined by western blot, and experiments were repeated in the presence of specific small-molecule inhibitors (Wortmannin, UO126 and Stattic).RESULTS:
CBMSC medium reduced the proportion of dead HL-1 cardiomyocytes from 39 ± 3 to 28 ± 1% (P < 0.05) and the rate of late apoptotic cells to 68 ± 2% of that in control medium (P < 0.001). Metabolic activity was increased by 12 ± 1% compared with control (P < 0.05), while in fibroblast medium it was not (5 ± 2%, P = 1). This was associated with increased phosphorylation of Akt (2-fold, P < 0.05), ERK1/2 (3-fold, P < 0.01) and STAT3 (12-fold, P < 0.001). Combined blocking of the phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase/Akt and mitogen-activated protein kinase/ERK signalling abolished the protective CBMSC effect, while blocking the pathways individually had no effect. Inhibition of STAT3 phosphorylation drastically lowered HL-1 cell viability in control medium, but not in medium conditioned by CBMSCs.CONCLUSIONS:
The factors released by CBMSCs protect cardiomyocyte-like HL-1 cells from simulated ischaemia more than those released from fibroblasts. While CBMSC-triggered Akt and ERK1/2 activation provides protection in a compensatory manner, STAT3 is crucial for cardiomyocyte survival in ischaemia, but is not a key mediator of cytoprotective stem cell actions.