Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have potential for therapeutic application as an immunomodulatory and regenerative agent. The immunogenicity and survival of MSCs after infusion are, however, not clear and evidence suggests that allogeneic but also autologous MSCs disappear rapidly after infusion. This may be associated with the susceptibility of MSCs to lysis by natural killer (NK) cells, possibly a result of culture-induced stress. In the present study we examined whether NK cell-mediated lysis of MSCs could be inhibited by immunosuppressive drugs. Human MSCs were isolated from adipose tissue and expanded in culture. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were activated with interleukin (IL)-2 (200U/ml) and IL-15 (10ng/ml) for 7 days. CD3-CD16+CD56+NK cells were then isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting and added to europium-labeled MSCs for 4hr in the presence or absence of immunosuppressive drugs. Lysis of MSCs was determined by spectrophotometric measurement of europium release. Nonactivated NK cells were not capable of lysing MSCs. Cytokine-activated NK cells showed upregulated levels of granzyme B and perforin and efficiently lysed allogeneic and autologous MSCs. Addition of tacrolimus, rapamycin or sotrastaurin to the lysis assay did not inhibit MSC killing. Furthermore, preincubation of activated NK cells with the immunosuppressive drugs for 24hr before exposure to MSCs had no effect on MSC lysis. Last, addition of the immunosuppressants before and during the activation of NK cells, reduced NK cell numbers but did not affect their capacity to lyse MSCs. We conclude that the immunosuppressive drugs tacrolimus, rapamycin, and sotrastaurin are not capable of inhibiting the lysis of allogeneic and autologous MSCs by activated NK cells. Other approaches to controlling lysis of MSCs should be investigated, as controlling lysis may determine the efficacy of MSC therapy.

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Journal Human Gene Therapy
Hoogduijn, M.J, Roemeling-Van Rhijn, M, Korevaar, S.S, Engela, A.U, Weimar, W, & Baan, C.C. (2011). Immunological aspects of allogeneic and autologous mesenchymal stem cell therapies. Human Gene Therapy, 22(12), 1587–1591. doi:10.1089/hum.2011.039