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Allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from young and healthy donors are immunoprivileged and have the potential to treat numerous degenerative diseases. However, recent reviews of clinical trials report poor long-term survival of transplanted cells in the recipient that turned down the enthusiasm regarding MSC therapies. Increasing evidence now confirm that though initially immunoprivileged, MSCs eventually become immunogenic after transplantation in the ischemic or hypoxic environment of diseased tissues and are rejected by the host immune system. We performed in vitro (in rat and human cells) and in vivo (in a rat model) investigations to understand the mechanisms of the immune switch in the phenotype of MSCs. The immunoprivilege of MSCs is preserved by the absence of cell surface immune antigen, major histocompatibility complex II (MHC-II) molecule. We found that the ATPase subunit of 19S proteasome "Sug1" regulates MHC-II biosynthesis in MSCs. Exposure to hypoxia upregulates Sug1 in MSCs and its binding to class II transactivator (CIITA), a coactivator of MHC-II transcription. Sug1 binding to CIITA in hypoxic MSCs promotes the acetylation and K63 ubiquitination of CIITA leading to its activation and translocation to the nucleus, and ultimately MHC-II upregulation. In both rat and human MSCs, knocking down Sug1 inactivated MHC-II and preserved immunoprivilege even following hypoxia. In a rat model of myocardial infarction, transplantation of Sug1-knockdown MSCs in ischemic heart preserved immunoprivilege and improved the survival of transplanted cells. Therefore, the current study provides novel mechanisms of post-transplantation loss of immunoprivilege of MSCs. This study may help in facilitating better planning for future clinical trials. © 2020 Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.


Ejlal Abu-El-Rub, Niketa Sareen, Glen Lester Sequiera, Hania I Ammar, Weiang Yan, Asmaa M ShamsEldeen, Ilan Rubinchik, Meenal Moudgil, Heba S Shokry, Laila A Rashed, Sanjiv Dhingra. Hypoxia-induced increase in Sug1 leads to poor post-transplantation survival of allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. 2020 Sep;34(9):12860-12876

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PMID: 32770803

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