Hakim R, Covacu R, Zachariadis V, Frostell A, Sankavaram SR, Brundin L, Svensson M
Stem Cell Res Ther 10 (1) 115 [2019-04-03; online 2019-04-03]
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and their cellular response to various stimuli have been characterized in great detail in culture conditions. In contrast, the cellular response of MSCs in an in vivo setting is still uncharted territory. In this study, we investigated the cellular response of MSCs following transplantation into spinal cord injury (SCI). Mouse bone marrow-derived MSCs were transplanted 24 h following severe contusion SCI in mice. As controls, MSCs transplanted to the uninjured spinal cord and non-transplanted MSCs were used. At 7 days post transplantation, the MSCs were isolated from the SCI, and their global transcriptional changes, survival, differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis, and phenotypes were investigated using RNA sequencing, immunohistochemistry, and flow cytometry. MSCs transplanted into SCI downregulated genes related to cell-cycle regulation/progression, DNA metabolic/biosynthetic process, and DNA repair and upregulated genes related to immune system response, cytokine production/response, response to stress/stimuli, signal transduction and signaling pathways, apoptosis, and phagocytosis/endocytosis. MSCs maintained their surface expression of Sca1 and CD29 but upregulated expression of CD45 following transplantation. Transplanted MSCs maintained their surface expression of MHC-I but upregulated surface expression of MHC-II. Transplanted MSCs survived and proliferated to a low extent, did not express Caspase-3, and did not differentiate into neurons or astrocytes. MSCs transplanted into SCI upregulate expression of CD45 and MHC-II and expression of genes related to cytokine production, phagocytosis/endocytosis, and immune cells/response and thereby adopt immune cell-like characteristics within the recipient.