Extracellular Vesicles Secreted by Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Exert Opposite Effects to Their Cells of Origin in Murine Sodium Dextran Sulfate-Induced Colitis

Extracellular Vesicles

Several reports have described a beneficial effect of Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (MSCs) and of their secreted extracellular vesicles (EVs) in mice with experimental colitis. However, the effects of the two treatments have not been thoroughly compared in this model. Here, we compared the effects of MSCs and of MSC-EV administration in mice with colitis induced by dextran sulfate sodium (DSS). Since cytokine conditioning was reported to enhance the immune modulatory activity of MSCs, the cells were kept either under standard culture conditions (naïve, nMSCs) or primed with a cocktail of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including IL1β, IL6 and TNFα (induced, iMSCs). In our experimental conditions, nMSCs and iMSCs administration resulted in both clinical and histological worsening and was associated with pro-inflammatory polarization of intestinal macrophages. However, mice treated with iEVs showed clinico-pathological improvement, decreased intestinal fibrosis and angiogenesis and a striking increase in intestinal expression of Mucin 5ac, suggesting improved epithelial function. Moreover, treatment with iEVs resulted in the polarization of intestinal macrophages towards and anti-inflammatory phenotype and in an increased Treg/Teff ratio at the level of the intestinal lymph node. Collectively, these data confirm that MSCs can behave either as anti- or as pro-inflammatory agents depending on the host environment. In contrast, EVs showed a beneficial effect, suggesting a more predictable behavior, a safer therapeutic profile and a higher therapeutic efficacy with respect to their cells of origin.

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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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