Small Extracellular Vesicle Enrichment of a Retrotransposon-Derived Double-Stranded RNA: A Means to Avoid Autoinflammation?

Extracellular Vesicles

Small extracellular vesicles (SEVs) such as exosomes are released by multiple cell types. Originally believed to be a mechanism for selectively removing unwanted cellular components, SEVs have received increased attention in recent years for their ability to mediate intercellular communication. Apart from proteins and lipids, SEVs contain RNAs, but how RNAs are selectively loaded into SEVs remains poorly understood. To address this question, we profiled SEV RNAs from mouse dendritic cells using RNA-Seq and identified a long noncoding RNA of retroviral origin, VL30, which is highly enriched (>200-fold) in SEVs compared to parental cells. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that exosome-enriched isoforms of VL30 RNA contain a repetitive 26-nucleotide motif. This repeated motif is itself efficiently incorporated into SEVs, suggesting the likelihood that it directly promotes SEV loading. RNA folding analyses indicate that the motif is likely to form a long double-stranded RNA hairpin and, consistent with this, its overexpression was associated with induction of a potent type I interferon response. Taken together, we propose that preferential loading into SEVs of the VL30 RNA containing this immunostimulatory motif enables cells to remove a potentially toxic RNA and avoid autoinflammation. In this way, the original notion of SEVs as a cellular garbage bin should not be entirely discounted.

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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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