Engineering Extracellular Vesicles to Modulate Their Innate Mitochondrial Load



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Journal Article

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Publication Title

Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering





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ATP, Brain endothelial cells, EVs, Exosomes, Metabolic function, Microvesicles, Mitochondria, PGC-1α


Introduction: Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are promising carriers for the delivery of biotherapeutic cargo such as RNA and proteins. We have previously demonstrated that the innate EV mitochondria in microvesicles (MVs), but not exosomes (EXOs) can be transferred to recipient BECs and mouse brain slice neurons. Here, we sought to determine if the innate EV mitochondrial load can be further increased via increasing mitochondrial biogenesis in the donor cells. We hypothesized that mitochondria-enriched EVs (“mito-EVs”) may increase the recipient BEC ATP levels to a greater extent than naïve MVs. Methods: We treated NIH/3T3, a fibroblast cell line and hCMEC/D3, a human brain endothelial cell (BEC) line using resveratrol to activate peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator-1α (PGC-1α), the central mediator of mitochondrial biogenesis. Naïve EVs and mito-EVs isolated from the non-activated and activated donor cells were characterized using transmission electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering and nanoparticle tracking analysis. The effect of mito-EVs on resulting ATP levels in the recipient BECs were determined using Cell Titer Glo ATP assay. The uptake of Mitotracker Red-stained EVs into recipient BECs and their colocalization with recipient BEC mitochondria were studied using flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy. Results: Resveratrol treatment increased PGC-1α expression in the donor cells. Mito-MVs but not mito-EXOs showed increased expression of mitochondrial markers ATP5A and TOMM20 compared to naïve MVs. TEM images showed that a greater number of mito-MVs contained mitochondria compared to naïve MVs. Mito-MVs but not mito-EXOs showed a larger particle diameter compared to their naïve EV counterparts from the non-activated cells suggesting increased mitochondria incorporation. Mito-EVs were generated at higher particle concentrations compared to naïve EVs from non-activated cells. Mito-EVs increased the cellular ATP levels and transferred their mitochondrial load into the recipient BECs. Mito-MV mitochondria also colocalized with recipient BEC mitochondria. Conclusions: Our results suggest that the pharmacological modulation of mitochondrial biogenesis in the donor cells can change the mitochondrial load in the secreted MVs. Outcomes of physicochemical characterization studies and biological assays confirmed the superior effects of mito-MVs compared to naïve MVs—suggesting their potential to improve mitochondrial function in neurovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

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