Background: The metabolic reprogramming of mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSC) favoring glycolysis has recently emerged as a new approach to improve their immunotherapeutic abilities. This strategy is associated with greater lactate release, and interestingly, recent studies have proposed lactate as a functional suppressive molecule, changing the old paradigm of lactate as a waste product. Therefore, we evaluated the role of lactate as an alternative mediator of MSC immunosuppressive properties and its contribution to the enhanced immunoregulatory activity of glycolytic MSCs. Materials and methods: Murine CD4+ T cells from C57BL/6 male mice were differentiated into proinflammatory Th1 or Th17 cells and cultured with either L-lactate, MSCs pretreated or not with the glycolytic inductor, oligomycin, and MSCs pretreated or not with a chemical inhibitor of lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA), galloflavin or LDH siRNA to prevent lactate production. Additionally, we validated our results using human umbilical cord-derived MSCs (UC-MSCs) in a murine model of delayed type 1 hypersensitivity (DTH). Results: Our results showed that 50 mM of exogenous L-lactate inhibited the proliferation rate and phenotype of CD4+ T cell-derived Th1 or Th17 by 40% and 60%, respectively. Moreover, the suppressive activity of both glycolytic and basal MSCs was impaired when LDH activity was reduced. Likewise, in the DTH inflammation model, lactate production was required for MSC anti-inflammatory activity. This lactate dependent-immunosuppressive mechanism was confirmed in UC-MSCs through the inhibition of LDH, which significantly decreased their capacity to control proliferation of activated CD4+ and CD8+ human T cells by 30%. Conclusion: These findings identify a new MSC immunosuppressive pathway that is independent of the classical suppressive mechanism and demonstrated that the enhanced suppressive and therapeutic abilities of glycolytic MSCs depend at least in part on lactate production.
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