Product(s) used in this publication: PepMix™ Peptide Pools
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) suppress alloantigen-induced T-cell functions in vitro and infusion of third-party MSCs seems to be a promising therapy for graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Little is known about the specificity of immunosuppression by MSCs, in particular the effect on immunity to pathogens. We have studied how MSCs affect T-cell responses specific to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV). We found that EBV- and CMV-induced proliferation and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) production from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was less affected by third-party MSCs than the response to alloantigen and that MSCs had no effect on expansion of EBV and CMV pentamer-specific T cells. Established EBV-specific cytotoxic T cells (CTL) or CMV-CTL cultured with MSCs retained the ability to proliferate and produce IFN-gamma in response to their cognate antigen and to kill virally infected targets. Finally, PBMCs from 2 patients who received MSCs for acute GVHD showed persistence of CMV-specific T cells and retained IFN-gamma response to CMV after MSC infusion. In summary, MSCs have little effect on T-cell responses to EBV and CMV, which contrasts to their strong immunosuppressive effects on alloreactive T cells. These data have major implications for immunotherapy of GVHD with MSCs and suggest that the effector functions of virus-specific T cells may be retained after MSC infusion.