Stromal cells isolated from bone marrow (BMSCs), often referred to as mesenchymal stem cells, are currently under investigation for a variety of therapeutic applications. However, limited data are available regarding receptors that can influence their homing to and positioning within the bone marrow. In the present study, we found that second passage BMSCs express a unique set of chemokine receptors: three CC chemokine receptors (CCR1, CCR7, and CCR9) and three CXC chemokine receptors (CXCR4, CXCR5, and CXCR6). BMSCs cultured in serum-free medium secrete several chemokine ligands (CCL2, CCL4, CCL5, CCL20, CXCL12, CXCL8, and CX3CL1). The surface-expressed chemokine receptors were functional by several criteria. Stimulation of BMSCs with chemokine ligands triggers phosphorylation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (e.g., extracellular signal–related kinase [ERK]-1 and ERK-2) and focal adhesion kinase signaling pathways. In addition, CXCL12 selectively activates signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)-5 whereas CCL5 activates STAT-1. In cell biologic assays, all of the chemokines tested stimulate chemotaxis of BMSCs, and CXCL12 induces cytoskeleton F-actin polymerization. Studies of culture-expanded BMSCs, for example, 12–16 passages, indicate loss of surface expression of all chemokine receptors and lack of chemotactic response to chemokines. The loss in chemokine receptor expression is accompanied by a decrease in expression of adhesion molecules (ICAM-1, ICAM-2, and vascular cell adhesion molecule 1) and CD157, while expression of CD90 and CD105 is maintained. The change in BMSC phenotype is associated with slowing of cell growth and increased spontaneous apoptosis. These findings suggest that several chemokine axes may operate in BMSC biology and may be important parameters in the validation of cultured BMSCs intended for cell therapy.
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