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Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have immunomodulatory properties, but their effects on endothelial cells (EC) and recruitment of leukocytes are unknown. We cocultured human bone marrow-derived MSC with EC and found that MSC could downregulate adhesion of flowing neutrophils or lymphocytes and their subsequent transendothelial migration. This applied for EC treated with tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF), interleukin-1β (IL-1), or TNF and interferon-γ combined. Supernatant from cocultures also inhibited endothelial responses. This supernatant had much higher levels of IL-6 than supernatant from cultures of the individual cells, which also lacked inhibitory functions. Addition of neutralizing antibody against IL-6 removed the bioactivity of the supernatant and also the immunomodulatory effects of coculture. Studies using siRNA showed that IL-6 came mainly from the MSC in coculture, and reduction in production in MSC alone was sufficient to impair the protective effects of coculture. Interestingly, siRNA knockdown of IL-6-receptor expression in MSC as well as EC inhibited anti-inflammatory effects. This was explained when we detected soluble IL-6R receptor in supernatants and showed that receptor removal reduced the potency of supernatant. Neutralization of transforming growth factor-β indicated that activation of this factor in coculture contributed to IL-6 production. Thus, crosstalk between MSC and EC caused upregulation of production of IL-6 by MSC which in turn downregulated the response of EC to inflammatory cytokines, an effect potentiated by MSC release of soluble IL-6R. These studies establish a novel mechanism by which MSC might have protective effects against inflammatory pathology and cardiovascular disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Stem cells

Publication Date





2690 - 2702


Endothelial cells, Inflammation, Leukocytes, Mesenchymal stem cells, Cell Adhesion, Cell Communication, Cytokines, Down-Regulation, Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells, Humans, Leukocytes, Mesenchymal Stem Cells, Neutrophils