Background and purpose Bone marrow-derived cells (BMDC) have been demonstrated to play a critical role in intestine regeneration. However, organ fibrosis was one of the major side effects of bone marrow (BM) transplantation. It warrants further investigation on the mechanisms of BM cell therapy in radiation induced intestine damage. Materials and methods We established three murine models to evaluate BMDC within intestines after radiation, including cre-loxP system of transgenic mice. In vitro co-culture between murine BM with human intestine stromal cells was also performed to measure the level of fusion and fibrosis after treatment with anti-fibrotic agents or after macrophage depletion. Results Despite complete recovery of epithelial mucosa from radiation damage, we found persistent proliferation and repopulation of BMDC within the lamina propria. Fusion between BM derived monocytic and intestine stromal cells correlated with the level of fibrosis and proliferation index. Depleting macrophages genetically using CD11b-DTR mouse model or pharmacologically using clodronate liposome reduced the level of cell fusion and intestine fibrosis. Conclusions Fibrotic cues from intestine enhance fusion between BM-derived monocytes/macrophages with intestine stromal cells. The fusion hybrids promote cell cycle re-entry, proliferation and reinforce fibrosis signal. Depleting macrophages interferes with cell fusion and ameliorates radiation-induced intestine fibrosis.
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