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Open Access Research article

Reduced immunomodulation potential of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells induced CCR4+CCR6+ Th/Treg cell subset imbalance in ankylosing spondylitis

Yanfeng Wu1, Mingliang Ren2, Rui Yang2, Xinjun Liang2, Yuanchen Ma3, Yong Tang2, Lin Huang2, Jichao Ye2, Keng Chen2, Peng Wang2* and Huiyong Shen2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Othopaedics, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, 107# Yanjiangxi Road, Guangzhou 510120, PR China

2 Biotherapy Centre, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, 107# Yanjiangxi Road, Guangzhou 510120, PR China

3 Department of Othopaedics, Guangdong Provincial People Hospital, 106# Zhongshan Road 2, Guangzhou 510080, PR China

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:R29  doi:10.1186/ar3257

Published: 21 February 2011



Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic autoimmune disease, and the precise pathogenesis is largely unknown at present. Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) with immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory potential and Th17/Treg cells with a reciprocal relationship regulated by BMSCs have been reported to be involved in some autoimmune disorders. Here we studied the biological and immunological characteristics of BMSCs, the frequency and phenotype of CCR4+CCR6+ Th/Treg cells and their interaction in vitro in AS.


The biological and immunomodulation characteristics of BMSCs were examined by induced multiple-differentiation and two-way mixed peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) reactions or after stimulation with phytohemagglutinin, respectively. The interactions of BMSCs and PBMCs were detected with a direct-contact co-culturing system. CCR4+CCR6+ Th/Treg cells and surface markers of BMSCs were assayed using flow cytometry.


The AS-BMSCs at active stage showed normal proliferation, cell viability, surface markers and multiple differentiation characteristics, but significantly reduced immunomodulation potential (decreased 68 ± 14%); the frequencies of Treg and Fox-P3+ cells in AS-PBMCs decreased, while CCR4+CCR6+ Th cells increased, compared with healthy donors. Moreover, the AS-BMSCs induced imbalance in the ratio of CCR4+CCR6+ Th/Treg cells by reducing Treg/PBMCs and increasing CCR4+CCR6+ Th/PBMCs, and also reduced Fox-P3+ cells when co-cultured with PBMCs. Correlation analysis showed that the immunomodulation potential of BMSCs has significant negative correlations with the ratio of CCR4+CCR6+ Th to Treg cells in peripheral blood.


The immunomodulation potential of BMSCs is reduced and the ratio of CCR4+CCR6+ Th/Treg cells is imbalanced in AS. The BMSCs with reduced immunomodulation potential may play a novel role in AS pathogenesis by inducing CCR4+CCR6+ Th/Treg cell imbalance.