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CD47‐Mediated Hedgehog/SMO/GLI1 Signaling Promotes Mesenchymal Stem Cell Immunomodulation in Mouse Liver Inflammation

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Background and aims

The cluster of differentiation 47 (CD47)-signal regulatory protein alpha (SIRPα) signaling pathway plays important roles in immune homeostasis and tissue inflammatory response. Activation of the Hedgehog/smoothened (SMO)/GLI family zinc finger 1 (Gli1) pathway regulates cell growth, differentiation, and immune function. However, it remains unknown whether and how the CD47-SIRPα interaction may regulate Hedgehog/SMO/Gli1 signaling in mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-mediated immune regulation during sterile inflammatory liver injury.

Approach and results

In a mouse model of ischemia/reperfusion (IR)-induced sterile inflammatory liver injury, we found that adoptive transfer of MSCs increased CD47 expression and ameliorated liver IR injury. However, deletion of CD47 in MSCs exacerbated IR-induced liver damage, with increased serum ALT levels, macrophage/neutrophil infiltration, and pro-inflammatory mediators. MSC treatment augmented SIRPα, Hedgehog/SMO/Gli1, and Notch1 intracellular domain (NICD), whereas CD47-deficient MSC treatment reduced these gene expressions in IR-stressed livers. Moreover, disruption of myeloid SMO or Notch1 increased IR-triggered liver inflammation with diminished Gli1 and NICD, but enhanced NIMA related kinase 7 (NEK7) and NLR family pyrin domain containing 3 (NLRP3) activation in MSC-transferred mice. Using a MSC/macrophage co-culture system, we found that MSC CD47 and macrophage SIRPα expression were increased after LPS stimulation. The CD47-SIRPα interaction increased macrophage Gli1 and NICD nuclear translocation, whereby NICD interacted with Gli1 and regulated its target gene Dvl2 (dishevelled segment polarity protein 2), which in turn inhibited NEK7/NLRP3 activity.


The CD47-SIRPα signaling activates the Hedgehog/SMO/Gli1 pathway, which controls NEK7/NLRP3 activity through a direct interaction between Gli1 and NICD. NICD is a coactivator of Gli1, and the target gene Dvl2 regulated by the NICD-Gli1 complex is crucial for the modulation of NLRP3-driven inflammatory response in MSC-mediated immune regulation. Our findings provide potential therapeutic targets in MSC-mediated immunotherapy of sterile inflammatory liver injury.

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