Burn Injury-Induced Extracellular Vesicle Production and Characteristics

Extracellular Vesicles

ABSTRACT: Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are nano-sized membrane-bound particles containing biologically active cargo molecules. The production and molecular composition of EVs reflect the physiological state of parent cells, and once released into the circulation, they exert pleiotropic functions via transferring cargo contents. Thus, circulating EVs not only serve as biomarkers, but also mediators in disease processes or injury responses. In the present study, we performed a comprehensive analysis of plasma EVs from burn patients and healthy subjects, characterizing their size distribution, concentration, temporal changes, cell origins, and cargo protein contents. Our results indicated that burn injury induced a significant increase in circulating EVs, the response peaked at the time of admission and declined over the course of recovery. Importantly, EV production correlated with injury severity, as indicated by the total body surface area and depth of burn, requirement for critical care/ICU stay, hospitalization length, wound infection, and concurrence of sepsis. Burn patients with inhalation injury showed a higher level of EVs than those without inhalation injury. We also evaluated patient demographics (age and sex) and pre-existing conditions (hypertension, obesity, and smoking) and found no significant correlation between these conditions and overall EV production. At the molecular level, flow cytometric analysis showed that the burn-induced EVs were largely derived from leukocytes and endothelial cells (ECs), which are known to be activated postburn. Additionally, a high level of zona-occludens-1 (ZO-1), a major constituent of tight junctions, was identified in burn EV cargos, indicative of injury in tissues that form barriers via tight junctions. Moreover, when applied to endothelial cell monolayers, burn EVs caused significant barrier dysfunction, characterized by decreased transcellular barrier resistance and disrupted cell-cell junction continuity. Taken together, these data suggest that burn injury promotes the production of EVs containing unique cargo proteins in a time-dependent manner; the response correlates with injury severity and worsened clinical outcomes. Functionally, burn EVs serve as a potent mediator capable of reducing endothelial barrier resistance and impairing junction integrity, a pathophysiological process underlying burn-associated tissue dysfunction. Thus, further in-depth characterization of circulating EVs will contribute to the development of new prognostic tools or therapeutic targets for advanced burn care.

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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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