Human umbilical cord blood-derived stromal cells (hUCBDSCs), a novel population isolated from CD34(+) cells by our laboratory, exerted an immunosuppressive effect on xenogenic T cells. This study aimed to investigate whether hUCBDSCs play a critical role in the suppression of acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD). The hUCBDSCs were co-cultured with splenocytes (SPCs) of donor C57BL/6 mice. The aGVHD in the recipient (B6×BALB/c) F1 mice was induced by the infusion of bone marrow cells and SPCs from donor mice following sublethal irradiation. The shift in vivo for hUCBDSCs was detected. The proliferation and cell cycle of SPCs were tested by cell counting kit-8 and flow cytometry, respectively. The expression of CD49b natural killer (NK) cells and CD3 T cells was detected by flow cytometry in co-culture and post-transplantation. IL-4, and IFN-γ were detected by ELISA in the serum of co-culture and post-transplantation. The survival time, body weight, clinical score, and histopathological score were recorded for mice post-transplantation. The hUCBDSCs promoted the proliferation of SPCs and significantly increased the ratio of the S and G(2)/M phase (p < 0.05). The hUCBDSCs significantly increased the expression of CD49b NK cells and IL-4 protein and decreased the expression of CD3 T cells and IFN-γ protein both in vitro and in vivo. The survival time of mice with co-transplantation of hUCBDSCs was significantly prolonged, and decreased clinical and histopathological scores were also observed. The hUCBDSCs were continually detected in the target organs of GVHD. These results suggest that hUCBDSCs possess the capability of suppressing aGVHD, possibly via their influence on CD3 T cells, NK cells, and cytokines.
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