IFN-γ orchestrates mesenchymal stem cell plasticity through the signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 and 3 and mammalian target of rapamycin pathways

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Abstract

Background:

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) display a therapeutic plasticity because of their ability to modulate immunity, foster tissue repair, and differentiate into mesodermal cells. IFN-γ has been described to differently affect human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) and mouse mesenchymal stem cell (mMSC) immunomodulation and differentiation, depending on the inflammatory milieu.

Objective:

We aimed at dissecting the relevant intracellular pathways through which IFN-γ affects MSC plasticity and the consequence of their manipulation on MSC functions.

Methods:

Modification of relevant IFN-γ–dependent pathways in mMSCs was carried out in vitro through gene silencing or chemical inhibition of key components. Functional outcomes were assessed by means of Western blotting, real-time PCR, differentiation, and proliferation assays on MSCs. The effect on T cells was addressed by T-cell proliferation assays; the effect of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) manipulation in MSCs was studied in vivo in a mouse model of delayed-type hypersensitivity assay. To address whether similar mechanisms are involved also in hMSCs on IFN-γ stimulation, the effect of chemical inhibition on the same intracellular pathways was assessed by means of Western blotting, and the final outcome on immunomodulatory properties was evaluated based on real-time PCR and T-cell proliferation.

Results:

We revealed that in mMSCs IFN-γ–induced immunoregulation is mediated by early phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 1 and STAT3, which is significantly enhanced by an extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2–dependent mTOR inhibition, thereby promoting pSTAT1 nuclear translocation. Accordingly, after intracellular mTOR inhibition, MSCs augmented their ability to inhibit T-cell proliferation and control delayed-type hypersensitivity in vivo. Similarly, on mTOR blockade, hMSCs also enhanced their immunoregulatory features. A sustained exposure to IFN-γ led to inhibition of STAT3 activity, which in mMSCs resulted in an impaired proliferation and differentiation.

Conclusion:

These results provide new insights about MSC intracellular pathways affected by IFN-γ, demonstrating that pharmacologic or genetic manipulation of MSCs can enhance their immunomodulatory functions, which could be translated into novel therapeutic approaches.

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