Efficient Small Extracellular Vesicles (EV) Isolation Method and Evaluation of EV-Associated DNA Role in Cell–Cell Communication in Cancer

Extracellular Vesicles

Small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) play essential roles in intercellular signaling both in normal and pathophysiological conditions. Comprehensive studies of dsDNA associated with sEVs are hampered by a lack of methods, allowing efficient separation of sEVs from free-circulating DNA and apoptotic bodies. In this work, using controlled culture conditions, we enriched the reproducible separation of sEVs from free-circulated components by combining tangential flow filtration, size-exclusion chromatography, and ultrafiltration (TSU). EV-enriched fractions (F2 and F3) obtained using TSU also contained more dsDNA derived from the host genome and mitochondria, predominantly localized inside the vesicles. Three-dimensional reconstruction of high-resolution imaging showed that the recipient cell membrane barrier restricts a portion of EV-DNA. Simultaneously, the remaining EV-DNA overcomes it and enters the cytoplasm and nucleus. In the cytoplasm, EV-DNA associates with dsDNA-inflammatory sensors (cGAS/STING) and endosomal proteins (Rab5/Rab7). Relevant to cancer, we found that EV-DNA isolated from leukemia cell lines communicates with mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), a critical component in the BM microenvironment. Furthermore, we illustrated the arrangement of sEVs and EV-DNA at a single vesicle level using super-resolution microscopy. Altogether, employing TSU isolation, we demonstrated EV-DNA distribution and a tool to evaluate the exact EV-DNA role of cell-cell communication in cancer.

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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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