Extracellular vesicles synchronize cellular phenotypes of differentiating cells

Extracellular Vesicles

During embryonic development, cells differentiate in a coordinated manner, aligning their fate decisions and differentiation stages with those of surrounding cells. However, little is known about the mechanisms that regulate this synchrony. Here we show that cells in close proximity synchronize their differentiation stages and cellular phenotypes with each other via extracellular vesicle (EV)-mediated cellular communication. We previously established a mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) line harbouring an inducible constitutively active protein kinase A (CA-PKA) gene and found that the ESCs rapidly differentiated into mesoderm after PKA activation. In the present study, we performed a co-culture of Control-ESCs and PKA-ESCs, finding that both ESC types rapidly differentiated in synchrony even when PKA was activated only in PKA-ESCs, a phenomenon we named 'Phenotypic Synchrony of Cells (PSyC)'. We further demonstrated PSyC was mediated by EVs containing miR-132. PKA-ESC-derived EVs and miR-132-containing artificial nano-vesicles similarly enhanced mesoderm and cardiomyocyte differentiation in ESCs and ex vivo embryos, respectively. PSyC is a new form of cell-cell communication mediated by the EV regulation of neighbouring cells and could be broadly involved in tissue development and homeostasis.

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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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