Exosome-mediated mRNA delivery in vivo is safe and can be used to induce SARS-CoV-2 immunity

Extracellular Vesicles

Functional delivery of mRNA has high clinical potential. Previous studies established that mRNAs can be delivered to cells in vitro and in vivo via RNA-loaded lipid nanoparticles (LNPs). Here we describe an alternative approach using exosomes, the only biologically normal nanovesicle. In contrast to LNPs, which elicited pronounced cellular toxicity, exosomes had no adverse effects in vitro or in vivo at any dose tested. Moreover, mRNA-loaded exosomes were characterized by efficient mRNA encapsulation (∼90%), high mRNA content, consistent size, and a polydispersity index under 0.2. Using an mRNA encoding the red light-emitting luciferase Antares2, we observed that mRNA-loaded exosomes were superior to mRNA-loaded LNPs at delivering functional mRNA into human cells in vitro. Injection of Antares2 mRNA-loaded exosomes also led to strong light emission following injection into the vitreous fluid of the eye or into the tissue of skeletal muscle in mice. Furthermore, we show that repeated injection of Antares2 mRNA-loaded exosomes drove sustained luciferase expression across six injections spanning at least 10 weeks, without evidence of signal attenuation or adverse injection site responses. Consistent with these findings, we observed that exosomes loaded with mRNAs encoding immunogenic forms of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike and Nucleocapsid proteins induced long-lasting cellular and humoral responses to both. Taken together, these results demonstrate that exosomes can be used to deliver functional mRNA to and into cells in vivo.

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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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