-Author name in bold denotes the presenting author
-Asterisk * with author name denotes a Non-ASH member
Clinically Relevant Abstract denotes an abstract that is clinically relevant.

PhD Trainee denotes that this is a recommended PHD Trainee Session.

Ticketed Session denotes that this is a ticketed session.

3313 PGE2 Dependent Inhibition of Macrophage Pyroptosis By MSCs Contributes to Alleviating aGVHD

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 722. Clinical Allogeneic Transplantation: Acute and Chronic GVHD, Immune Reconstitution: Poster III
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Biological, Diseases, Therapies, GVHD, Immune Disorders, immune cells, Cell Lineage, transplantation, stem cells
Monday, December 7, 2020, 7:00 AM-3:30 PM

Xueyan Sun1,2,3,4*, Yan Su1,2,3,4*, Xiao Liu1,2,3,4*, Fengqi Liu1,2,3,4*, Gaochao Zhang1,2,3,4*, Qi Chen1,2,3,4*, Chencong Wang1,2,3,4*, Haixia Fu1,2,3,4*, Xiaolu Zhu1,2,3,4*, Kaiyan Liu1,2,3,4 and Xiaohui Zhang1,2,3,4*

1National Clinical Research Center for Hematologic Disease, Beijing, China
2Collaborative Innovation Centre of Hematology, Peking University, Beijing, China
3Beijing Key Laboratory of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation, Beijing, China
4Peking University People’s Hospital, Peking University Institute of Hematology, Beijing, China


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are being recognized as one of the treatment options for acute graft versus host disease (aGVHD), but their therapeutic mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. Pyroptosis, a novel form of inflammation related programmed cell death, often occurs in myeloid cells. Many studies have found that macrophage pyroptosis plays an important role in multiple inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (Journal of Autoimmunity, 2018). As an immune disease with involvement of various inflammatory factors, aGVHD exhibits macrophage dysfunction according to our previous study (Sci China Life Sci, 2020). However, whether macrophages undergo pyroptosis and their role in aGVHD remain unknown. MSCs have been reported to inhibit pyroptosis, and some cytokines that suppress pyroptosis can also be secreted by MSCs (Nature Immunology, 2016). Whether inhibition of macrophage pyroptosis represents a therapeutic mechanism for MSCs to alleviate aGVHD needs further exploration.


Twenty patients with aGVHD and 20 patients without aGVHD after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation were enrolled in our study. Macrophages were derived from CD14+ monocytes of patients and the THP-1 cell line. CD4+ T cells were isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of healthy volunteers. MSCs were obtained from fresh umbilical cord of healthy puerpera. Morphological analysis of macrophages was performed by scanning electron microscopy. Expression of GSDMD and NLRP3 inflammasome associated components was assessed by real-time transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), western blot and immunofluorescent staining. The subgroup of CD4+T cells was analyzed by flow cytometry. RT-PCR, ELISA and RNA interference were used to evaluate relevant immunomodulatory factors which were involved in the inhibitory effect of MSCs on macrophage pyroptosis. Additionally, an aGVHD mouse model was established to observe the therapeutic effect and mechanism of MSCs on macrophage pyroptosis.


Scanning electron microscopy images showed the formation of membrane pores in macrophages of aGVHD patients. Meanwhile, expression of the pyroptosis executioner GSDMD, NLRP3 inflammasome associated components, IL-1β, IL-18, and LDH release were elevated in macrophages from aGVHD patients, indicating that macrophages in aGVHD underwent NLRP3 inflammasome activation and pyroptosis. Furthermore, NLRP3 inhibition reduced macrophages pyroptosis, suggesting that macrophages pyroptosis in aGVHD are mediated by NLRP3 inflammasome activation.

Since CD4+T cells play a critical role in the pathogenesis of aGVHD, we investigated the effect of macrophage pyroptosis on CD4+T cells. In vitro, macrophage pyroptosis increased the proportion of CD69+, Th1 and Th17 cells among CD4+T cells, which was partially reversed by blocking IL-1β/IL-1R and IL-18/IL-18R signaling. We also observed that the proportion of macrophage pyroptosis was more increased in patients with III-IV aGVHD than in those with I-II aGVHD. In addition, administration of a pyroptosis inhibitor into aGVHD model mice greatly attenuated clinical and histopathological scores. Taken together, these results indicate that macrophage pyroptosis might be involved the development of aGVHD.

Expression of GSDMD, NLRP3 inflammasome associated components, IL-1β, IL-18, and LDH release in aGVHD macrophages were reduced when cells were cocultured with MSCs, indicating that MSCs inhibit aGVHD macrophage pyroptosis by suppressing NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Furthermore, secretion of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) was increased in MSCs cocultured with aGVHD macrophages, blocking which by small interfering RNA (siRNA) or inhibition of PGE2 induced CAMP-PKA signaling with antagonists both largely abrogated MSC effects. Consistently, the effect of MSCs on macrophage pyroptosis and the NLRP3 inflammasome in vivo was also dampened after transfection with prostaglandin E synthase (PTGES) siRNA, and the therapeutic effect in the aGVHD mouse model was impaired.


Our results demonstrate that macrophage pyroptosis plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of aGVHD by promoting activation and differentiation of CD4+ T cells. MSCs suppress macrophage pyroptosis in aGVHD via PGE2/cAMP/PKA signaling, which might represent a therapeutic mechanism of MSCs for aGVHD.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

*signifies non-member of ASH