Amniotic Fluid Stem (AFS) cells are broadly multipotent fetal stem cells derived from the positive selection and ex vivo expansion of amniotic fluid CD117/c-kit(pos) cells. Considering the differentiation potential in vitro toward cell lineages belonging to the three germ layers, AFS cells have raised great interest as a new therapeutic tool, but their immune properties still need to be assessed. We analyzed the in vitro immunological properties of AFS cells from different gestational age in coculture with T, B, and natural killer (NK) cells. Nonactivated (resting) first trimester-AFS cells showed lower expression of HLA class-I molecules and NK-activating ligands than second and third trimester-AFS cells, whose features were associated with lower sensitivity to NK cell-mediated lysis. Nevertheless, inflammatory priming with interferon gamma (IFN-γ) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) enhanced resistance of all AFS cell types to NK cytotoxicity. AFS cells modulated lymphocyte proliferation in a different manner according to gestational age: first trimester-AFS cells significantly inhibited T and NK cell proliferation, while second and third trimester-AFS cells were less efficient. In addition, only inflammatory-primed second trimester-AFS cells could suppress B cell proliferation, which was not affected by the first and third trimester-AFS cells. Indolamine 2,3 dioxygenase pathway was significantly involved only in T cell suppression mediated by second and third trimester-AFS cells. Overall, this study shows a number of significant quantitative differences among AFS cells of different gestational age that have to be considered in view of their clinical application.
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