Retinal pigment epithelium extracellular vesicles are potent inducers of age-related macular degeneration disease phenotype in the outer retina

Extracellular Vesicles

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness. Vision loss is caused by the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and photoreceptors atrophy and/or retinal and choroidal angiogenesis. Here we use AMD patient-specific RPE cells with the Complement Factor H Y402H high-risk polymorphism to perform a comprehensive analysis of extracellular vesicles (EVs), their cargo and role in disease pathology. We show that AMD RPE is characterised by enhanced polarised EV secretion. Multi-omics analyses demonstrate that AMD RPE EVs carry RNA, proteins and lipids, which mediate key AMD features including oxidative stress, cytoskeletal dysfunction, angiogenesis and drusen accumulation. Moreover, AMD RPE EVs induce amyloid fibril formation, revealing their role in drusen formation. We demonstrate that exposure of control RPE to AMD RPE apical EVs leads to the acquisition of AMD features such as stress vacuoles, cytoskeletal destabilization and abnormalities in the morphology of the nucleus. Retinal organoid treatment with apical AMD RPE EVs leads to disrupted neuroepithelium and the appearance of cytoprotective alpha B crystallin immunopositive cells, with some co-expressing retinal progenitor cell markers Pax6/Vsx2, suggesting injury-induced regenerative pathways activation. These findings indicate that AMD RPE EVs are potent inducers of AMD phenotype in the neighbouring RPE and retinal cells.

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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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