Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have emerged as a promising tool to treat inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), due to their immunoregulatory properties. Frequently, IBD is modeled in mice by using dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis. Recently, the modulation of autophagy in MSC has been suggested as a novel strategy to improve MSC-based immunotherapy. Hence, we investigated a possible role of Pacer, a novel autophagy enhancer, in regulating the immunosuppressive function of MSC in the context of DSS-induced colitis. We found that Pacer is upregulated upon stimulation with the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα, the main cytokine released in the inflammatory environment of IBD. By modulating Pacer expression in MSC, we found that Pacer plays an important role in regulating the autophagy pathway in this cell type in response to TNFα stimulation, as well as in regulating the immunosuppressive ability of MSC toward T-cell proliferation. Furthermore, increased expression of Pacer in MSC enhanced their ability to ameliorate the symptoms of DSS-induced colitis in mice. Our results support previous findings that autophagy regulates the therapeutic potential of MSC and suggest that the augmentation of autophagic capacity in MSC by increasing Pacer levels may have therapeutic implications for IBD.
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