Functional RIG-I-like receptors control the survival of mesenchymal stem cells

K. Yang, J. Wang, A. P. Xiang, X. Zhan, Y. Wang, M. Wu, X. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Because of their potent regenerative and immunomodulatory properties, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have promising therapeutic benefits in clinical treatment of inflammatory and infectious diseases. Recent studies suggest that many biological activities of MSCs are largely determined by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), such as Toll-like receptors (TLRs). However, the role of PRRs in regulating the survival of MSCs remains unknown. In the present study, we examined the viability of MSCs after stimulation of distinct PRRs. Activation of TLRs by direct addition with their respective ligands showed no significant effect on the survival of MSCs, whereas transfection with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) resulted in marked cell death in MSCs. Transfection of dsRNA upregulated cytosolic retinoic acid inducible gene I (RIG-I)-like receptors (RLRs), including RIG-I and melanoma differentiation-associated antigen 5 (MDA5). Moreover, transfection of dsRNA activated downstream transcription factors interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) and nuclear factor κB (NF-κB), as well as induced the expression of interferon-β (IFN-β) and pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 6 (IL-6) via RLR signaling. Furthermore, we found that transfection of dsRNA triggered both extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic responses via RLRs. However, ectopic expression of RIG-I or MDA5 was not sufficient to induce apoptosis of MSCs without dsRNA transfection. Our study also revealed that IjB kinase α/β (IKKα/β) was required for RLR-mediated apoptosis in MSCs, while TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1)/IKKe served a pro-survival role. Moreover, neither overexpression of B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl2) nor neutralizing autocrined IFN-β reduced RLR-mediated apoptosis. In addition, autophagy was induced upon activation of RLRs, however, blocking autophagy did not rescue MSCs from the dsRNA-induced cell death. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to explore the role of RLRs in controlling the survival of MSCs, which may provide a clue to understand the pathogenesis of viral infection in MSCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere967
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • RIG-I-like receptors
  • apoptosis
  • autophagy
  • cell survival
  • mesenchymal stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Functional RIG-I-like receptors control the survival of mesenchymal stem cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this