Decoding distinctive features of plasma extracellular vesicles in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Extracellular Vesicles

BackgroundAmyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a multifactorial, multisystem motor neuron disease for which currently there is no effective treatment. There is an urgent need to identify biomarkers to tackle the disease’s complexity and help in early diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are nanostructures released by any cell type into body fluids. Their biophysical and biochemical characteristics vary with the parent cell’s physiological and pathological state and make them an attractive source of multidimensional data for patient classification and stratification.MethodsWe analyzed plasma-derived EVs of ALS patients (n = 106) and controls (n = 96), and SOD1G93A and TDP-43Q331K mouse models of ALS. We purified plasma EVs by nickel-based isolation, characterized their EV size distribution and morphology respectively by nanotracking analysis and transmission electron microscopy, and analyzed EV markers and protein cargos by Western blot and proteomics. We used machine learning techniques to predict diagnosis and prognosis.ResultsOur procedure resulted in high-yield isolation of intact and polydisperse plasma EVs, with minimal lipoprotein contamination. EVs in the plasma of ALS patients and the two mouse models of ALS had a distinctive size distribution and lower HSP90 levels compared to the controls. In terms of disease progression, the levels of cyclophilin A with the EV size distribution distinguished fast and slow disease progressors, a possibly new means for patient stratification. Immuno-electron microscopy also suggested that phosphorylated TDP-43 is not an intravesicular cargo of plasma-derived EVs.ConclusionsOur analysis unmasked features in plasma EVs of ALS patients with potential straightforward clinical application. We conceived an innovative mathematical model based on machine learning which, by integrating EV size distribution data with protein cargoes, gave very high prediction rates for disease diagnosis and prognosis.

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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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