Background/Aims: Regulatory dendritic cells (rDCs), which can be induced by mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), play an important role in inducing and maintaining homeostasis of regulatory T cells and exhibit anti-inflammatory functions. In this study, we investigated whether MSCs could differentiate DCs into rDCs and compared the therapeutic effects of rDCs and MSCs on dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced chronic colitis mice. Methods: Immature DCs (imDCs) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-treated mature DCs (mDCs) were co-cultured with MSCs for 48 hours, and then the profiles of surface markers and cytokines and regulatory roles of these DCs for primary splenocytes were analyzed. In addition, the therapeutic effects of MSCs and DCs co-cultured with MSCs were compared in chronic colitis mice. Results: After co-culture of imDCs (MSC-DCs) or LPS-treated mDCs (LPS+MSC-DCs) with MSCs, the expression of CD11c, CD80, CD86, interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and interferon-γ (IFN-γ), was decreased, but that of CD11b, IL-10, and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) was increased. Furthermore, MSC-DCs and LPS+MSC-DCs induced the expression of CD4, CD25, and Foxp3 in primary splenocytes isolated from mice. In DSS-induced colitis mice, MSCs and MSC-DCs increased colon length, body weight, and survival rate and induced histological improvement. Moreover, in the colon tissues, the expression of IL-6, TNF-α, and IFN-γ decreased, but that of IL-10, TGF-β, and Foxp3 increased in the MSC- and MSC-DC-injected groups. Conclusions: Our data suggest that MSCs differentiate DCs into rDCs, which ameliorate chronic colitis. Thus, rDCs stimulated by MSCs may be therapeutically useful for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases.
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