Interferon-γ priming enhances the therapeutic effects of menstrual blood-derived stromal cells in a mouse liver ischemia-reperfusion model


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been used in liver transplantation and have certain effects in alleviating liver ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) and regulating immune rejection. However, some studies have indicated that the effects of MSCs are not very significant. Therefore, approaches that enable MSCs to exert significant and stable therapeutic effects are worth further study.


To enhance the therapeutic potential of human menstrual blood-derived stromal cells (MenSCs) in the mouse liver ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) model via interferon-γ (IFN-γ) priming.


Apoptosis was analyzed by flow cytometry to evaluate the safety of IFN-γ priming, and indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) levels were measured by quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, western blotting, and ELISA to evaluate the efficacy of IFN-γ priming. In vivo, the liver I/R model was established in male C57/BL mice, hematoxylin and eosin and TUNEL staining was performed and serum liver enzyme levels were measured to assess the degree of liver injury, and regulatory T cell (Treg) numbers in spleens were determined by flow cytometry to assess immune tolerance potential. Metabolomics analysis was conducted to elucidate the potential mechanism underlying the regulatory effects of primed MenSCs. In vitro, we established a hypoxia/reoxygenation (H/R) model and analyzed apoptosis by flow cytometry to investigate the mechanism through which primed MenSCs inhibit apoptosis. Transmission electron microscopy, western blotting, and immunofluorescence were used to analyze autophagy levels.


IFN-γ-primed MenSCs secreted higher levels of IDO, attenuated liver injury, and increased Treg numbers in the mouse spleens to greater degrees than untreated MenSCs. Metabolomics and autophagy analyses proved that primed MenSCs more strongly induced autophagy in the mouse livers. In the H/R model, autophagy inhibitors increased the level of H/R-induced apoptosis, indicating that autophagy exerted protective effects. In addition, primed MenSCs decreased the level of H/R-induced apoptosis via IDO and autophagy. Further rescue experiments proved that IDO enhanced the protective autophagy by inhibiting the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway and activating the AMPK pathway.


IFN-γ-primed MenSCs exerted better therapeutic effects in the liver I/R model by secreting higher IDO levels. MenSCs and IDO activated the AMPK-mTOR-autophagy axis to reduce IRI, and IDO increased Treg numbers in the spleen and enhanced the MenSC-mediated induction of immune tolerance. Our study suggests that IFN-γ-primed MenSCs may be a novel and superior MSC product for liver transplantation in the future.

Key Words: Mesenchymal stem cells, Cell therapy, Reperfusion injury, T-lymphocytes, Autophagy, Liver

Core Tip: In this study, we identified a suitable interferon-γ (IFN-γ) priming strategy for menstrual blood-derived stromal cells (MenSCs) in the liver ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) model and proved that primed MenSCs could significantly increase the number of regulatory cells in the spleen by secreting higher levels of indoleamine 2,3- dioxygenase (IDO) and thereby exhibited better immunoregulatory potential. Besides, through metabolomics and related molecular biology experiments, we found that IDO could reduce ischemia-reperfusion injury via the AMPK-mammalian target of rapamycin-autophagy axis. Our study suggests that IFN-γ-primed MenSCs may be a novel and superior mesenchymal stem cell product for liver transplantation in the future.

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