A universal method to analyze cellular internalization mechanisms via endocytosis without non-specific cross-effects

Extracellular Vesicles

Endocytosis is an essential biological process for nutrient absorption and intercellular communication; it can also be used to accelerate the cellular internalization of drug delivery carriers. Clarifying the cellular uptake mechanisms of unidentified endogenous and exogenous molecules and designing new effective drug delivery systems require an accurate, specific endocytosis analysis methodology. Therefore, we developed a method to specifically evaluate cellular internalization via three main endocytic pathways: clathrin- and caveolae-mediated endocytosis, and macropinocytosis. We first revealed that most known endocytosis inhibitors had no specific inhibitory effect or were cytotoxic. Second, we successfully established an alternative method using small interfering RNA to knock down dynamin-2 and caveolin-1, which are necessary for clathrin- and caveolae-mediated endocytosis, in HeLa cells. Third, we established another method to specifically analyze macropinocytosis using rottlerin on A431 cells. Finally, we validated the proposed methods by testing the cellular internalization of a biological molecule (insulin) and carriers (nanoparticles and cell-penetrating peptides). Through this study, we established versatile methods to precisely and specifically evaluate endocytosis of newly developed biopharmaceuticals or drug delivery systems.

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Recent Publications

Cigarette smoke (CS) represents one of the most relevant environmental risk factors for several chronic pathologies. Tissue damage caused by CS exposure is mediated, at least in part, by oxidative stress induced by its toxic and pro-oxidant components. Evidence demonstrates that extracellular vesicles (EVs) released by various cell types exposed to CS extract (CSE) are characterized by altered biochemical cargo and gained pathological properties. In the present study, we evaluated the content of oxidized proteins and phospholipid fatty acid profiles of EVs released by human bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells treated with CSE. This specific molecular characterization has hitherto not been performed. After confirmation that CSE reduces viability of BEAS-2B cells and elevates intracellular ROS levels, in a dose-dependent manner, we demonstrated that 24 h exposure at 1% CSE, a concentration that only slight modifies cell viability but increases ROS levels, was able to increase carbonylated protein levels in cells and released EVs. The release of oxidatively modified proteins via EVs might represent a mechanism used by cells to remove toxic proteins in order to avoid their intracellular overloading. Moreover, 1% CSE induced only few changes in the fatty acid asset in BEAS-2B cell membrane phospholipids, whereas several rearrangements were observed in EVs released by CSE-treated cells. The impact of changes in acyl chain composition of CSE-EVs accounted for the increased saturation levels of phospholipids, a membrane parameter that might influence EV stability, uptake and, at least in part, EV-mediated biological effects. The present in vitro study adds new information concerning the biochemical composition of CSE-related EVs, useful to predict their biological effects on target cells. Furthermore, the information regarding the presence of oxidized proteins and the specific membrane features of CSE-related EVs can be useful to define the utilization of circulating EVs as marker for diagnosing of CS-induced lung damage and/or CS-related diseases.

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