There is great interest in mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) for cell-therapy and tissue engineering approaches. MSCs are currently expanded in vitro in the presence of fetal calf serum (FCS); however, FCS raises concerns when used in clinical grade preparations. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether MSCs expanded in medium supplemented with platelet-lysate (PL), already shown to promote MSC growth, are endowed with biological properties appropriate for cell-therapy approaches. We confirm previously published data showing that MSCs expanded in either FCS or PL display comparable morphology, phenotype, and differentiation capacity, while PL-MSCs were superior in terms of clonogenic efficiency and proliferative capacity. We further extended these data by investigating the immune-regulatory effect of MSCs on the alloantigen-specific immune response in mixed lymphocyte culture (MLC). We found that MSCs-PL are comparable to MSCs-FCS in their capacity to: (i) decrease alloantigen-induced cytotoxic activity; (ii) favor differentiation of CD4+ T-cell subsets expressing a Treg phenotype; (iii) increase early secretion of IL-10 in MLC supernatant, as well as induce a striking augmentation of IL-6 production. As compared with MSCs-PL, MSCs-FCS were more efficient in suppressing alloantigen-induced lymphocyte subset proliferation and reducing early IFNgamma-secretion. Resistance to spontaneous transformation into tumor cells of expanded MSCs was demonstrated by molecular karyotyping and maintenance of normal morphology/phenotype after prolonged in vitro culture. Our data support the immunological functional plasticity of MSCs and suggest that MSCs-PL can be used as an alternative to MSCs-FCS, although these latter cells might be more suitable for preventing/treating alloreactivity-related immune complications. (c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.