Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSC) are adult stem cells which have been shown to improve survival, enhance bacterial clearance and alleviate inflammation in pre-clinical models of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and sepsis. These diseases are characterised by uncontrolled inflammation often underpinned by bacterial infection. The mechanisms of MSC immunomodulatory effects are not fully understood yet. We sought to investigate MSC cell contact-dependent communication with alveolar macrophages (AM), professional phagocytes which play an important role in the lung inflammatory responses and anti-bacterial defence. With the use of a basic direct co-culture system, confocal microscopy and flow cytometry we visualised and effectively quantified MSC mitochondrial transfer to AM through tunnelling nanotubes (TNT). To model the human AM, primary monocytes were isolated from human donor blood and differentiated into macrophages (monocyte derived macrophages, MDM) in the presence of granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), thus allowing adaptation of an AM-like phenotype (de Almeida et al., 2000; Guilliams et al., 2013). Human bone-marrow derived MSC, were labelled with mitochondria-specific fluorescent stain, washed extensively, seeded into the tissue culture plate with MDMs at the ratio of 1:20 (MSC/MDM) and co-cultured for 24 h. TNT formation and mitochondrial transfer were visualised by confocal microscopy and semi-quantified by flow cytometry. By using the method we described here we established that MSC use TNTs as the means to transfer mitochondria to macrophages. Further studies demonstrated that mitochondrial transfer enhances macrophage oxidative phosphorylation and phagocytosis. When TNT formation was blocked by cytochalasin B, MSC effect on macrophage phagocytosis was completely abrogated. This is the first study to demonstrate TNT-mediated mitochondrial transfer from MSC to innate immune cells.
Keywords: Mesenchymal stem cells, Macrophages, Mitochondrial transfer, ARDS, Phagocytosis, Oxidative phosphorylation
- Mesenchymal stem cells, Macrophages, Mitochondrial transfer, ARDS, Phagocytosis, Oxidative phosphorylation