Natural killer (NK) cell-derived extracellular-vesicle shuttled microRNAs control T cell responses

Extracellular Vesicles

Natural killer (NK) cells recognize and kill target cells undergoing different types of stress. NK cells are also capable of modulating immune responses. In particular, they regulate T cell functions. Small RNA next-generation sequencing of resting and activated human NK cells and their secreted extracellular vesicles (EVs) led to the identification of a specific repertoire of NK-EV-associated microRNAs and their post-transcriptional modifications signature. Several microRNAs of NK-EVs, namely miR-10b-5p, miR-92a-3p, and miR-155-5p, specifically target molecules involved in Th1 responses. NK-EVs promote the downregulation of GATA3 mRNA in CD4+ T cells and subsequent TBX21 de-repression that leads to Th1 polarization and IFN-γ and IL-2 production. NK-EVs also have an effect on monocyte and moDCs (monocyte-derived dendritic cells) function, driving their activation and increased presentation and costimulatory functions. Nanoparticle-delivered NK-EV microRNAs partially recapitulate NK-EV effects in mice. Our results provide new insights on the immunomodulatory roles of NK-EVs that may help to improve their use as immunotherapeutic tools.

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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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