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Uptake of Fluorescent Labeled Small Extracellular Vesicles In Vitro and in Spinal Cord

Published: May 23rd, 2021



1Department of Pharmacology & Physiology, Drexel University College of Medicine

We describe a protocol to label macrophage-derived small extracellular vesicles with PKH dyes and observe their uptake in vitro and in the spinal cord after intrathecal delivery.

Small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) are 50-150 nm vesicles secreted by all cells and present in bodily fluids. sEVs transfer biomolecules such as RNA, proteins, and lipids from donor to acceptor cells, making them key signaling mediators between cells. In the central nervous system (CNS), sEVs can mediate intercellular signaling, including neuroimmune interactions. sEV functions can be studied by tracking the uptake of labeled sEVs in recipient cells both in vitro and in vivo. This paper describes the labeling of sEVs from the conditioned media of RAW 264.7 macrophage cells using a PKH membrane dye. It shows the uptake of different concentrations of labeled sEVs at multiple time points by Neuro-2a cells and primary astrocytes in vitro. Also shown is the uptake of sEVs delivered intrathecally in mouse spinal cord neurons, astrocytes, and microglia visualized by confocal microscopy. The representative results demonstrate time-dependent variation in the uptake of sEVs by different cells, which can help confirm successful sEVs delivery into the spinal cord.

Small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) are nanosized, membrane-derived vesicles with a size range of 50-150 nm. They originate from multi-vesicular bodies (MVBs) and are released from cells upon fusion of the MVBs with the plasma membrane. sEVs contain miRNAs, mRNAs, proteins, and bioactive lipids, and these molecules are transferred between cells in the form of cell-to-cell communication. sEVs can be internalized by recipient cells by a variety of endocytic pathways, and this capture of sEVs by recipient cells is mediated by the recognition of surface molecules on both EVs and the target cells1.

sEVs have gained intere....

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NOTE: All procedures were performed in compliance with the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and approved by the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee of Drexel University College of Medicine. Timed-pregnant CD-1 mice were used for astrocytic culture, and all dams were received 15 days after impregnation. Ten-twelve weeks old C57BL/6 mice were used for in vivo uptake experiments.

1. Isolation of sEVs from RAW 264.7 macrophage cells

  1. Culture RAW 26.......

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After the isolation of sEVs from RAW 264.7 conditioned media via centrifugation, NTA was used to determine the concentration and size distribution of the purified sEVs. The average mean size of RAW 264.7-derived sEVs was 140 nm, and the peak particle size was 121.8 nm, confirming that most detectable particles in the light scattering measurement fell within the size range of exosomes or sEVs at 50-150 nm (Figure 1A). As suggested in the minimal information for studies of extracellular vesicl.......

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In this protocol, we showed the labeling of sEVs with PKH dyes and the visualization of their uptake in the spinal cord. PKH lipophilic fluorescent dyes are widely used for labeling cells by flow cytometry and fluorescent microscopy3,5,6,12,24,25. Due to their relatively long half-life and low cytotoxicity, PKH dyes can be us.......

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This study was supported by grants from NIH NINDS R01NS102836 and the Pennsylvania Department of Health Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) awarded to Seena K. Ajit. We thank Dr. Bradley Nash for critical reading of the manuscript.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Amicon Ultra 0.5 mL centrifugal filters MilliporeSigma Z677094
Anti-Alix Antibody Abcam ab186429 1:1000
Anti-Calnexin Antibody Abcam Ab10286 1:1000
Anti-CD81 Antibody Santa Cruz Biotechnology sc-166029 1:1000
Anti-GAPDH Monoclonal Antibody (14C10) Cell Signaling Technology 2118 1:1000
Anti-Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein Antibody Sigma-Aldrich MAB360 1:500 for IF; 1:1000 for IHC
Anti-Iba1 Antibody Wako 019-19741 1:2000
Anti-MAP2A Antibody Sigma-Aldrich MAB378 1:500
Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) VWR 0332
Cell Strainer, 40 μm VWR 15-1040-1
Centrifuge Tubes Thermo Scientific 3118-0050 12,000 x g
Coverslip, 12-mm, #1.5 Electron Microscopy Sciences 72230-01
Coverslip, 18-mm, #1.5 Electron Microscopy Sciences 72222-01
DAPI Sigma-Aldrich D9542-1MG 1 µg/mL
DC Protein Assay Bio-Rad 500-0116
Deoxyribonuclease I (DNAse I) MilliporeSigma D4513-1VL
Donkey Anti-Rabbit IgG H&L (HRP) Abcam ab16284 1:10000
Donkey Anti-Rabbit IgG H&L, Alexa Fluor 488 Invitrogen A-21206 1:500
Double Frosted Microscope Slides, #1 Thermo Scientific 12-552-5
DPBS without Calcium and Magnesium Corning 21-031-CV
Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium (DMEM) Corning 10-013-CV
Exosome-Depleted Fetal Bovine Serum Gibco A27208-01
Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) Corning 35-011-CV
FluorChem M imaging system ProteinSimple
FV3000 Confocal Microscope Olympus
Goat Anti-Mouse IgG H&L (HRP) Abcam ab6789 1:10000
Goat Anti-Mouse IgG H&L, Alexa Fluor 488 Invitrogen A-11001 1:500
Goat Anti-Mouse IgG1, Alexa Fluor 594 Invitrogen A-21125
Hank's Balanced Salt Solution (HBSS) VWR 02-0121
HEPES Gibco 15630080
HRP Substrate Thermo Scientific 34094
Intercept blocking buffer, TBS LI-COR Biosciences 927-60001
Laemmli SDS Sample Buffer Alfa Aesar AAJ61337AC
Micro Cover Glass, #1 VWR 48404-454
Microm HM550 Thermo Scientific
NanoSight NS300 system Malvern Panalytical
NanoSight NTA 3.2 software Malvern Panalytical
Neuro-2a Cell Line ATCC CCL-131
Normal Goat Serum Vector Laboratories S-1000
O.C.T Compound Sakura Finetek 4583
Papain Worthington Biochemical Corporation NC9597281
Paraformaldehyde Electron Microscopy Sciences 19210
Penicillin-Streptomycin Gibco 15140122
PKH26 Sigma-Aldrich MINI26-1KT
PKH67 Sigma-Aldrich MINI67-1KT
Protease Inhibitor Cocktail Thermo Scientific 1862209
PVDF Transfer Membrane MDI SVFX8302XXXX101
RAW 267.4 Cell Line ATCC TIB-71
RIPA Buffer Sigma-Aldrich R0278
Sodium Chloride AMRESCO 0241-2.5KG
Superfrost Plus Gold Slides Thermo Scientific 15-188-48 adhesive slides
T-75 Flasks Corning 431464U
Tecnai 12 Digital Transmission Electron Microscope FEI Company
TEM Grids Electron Microscopy Sciences FSF300-cu
Tris-Glycine Protein Gel, 12% Invitrogen XP00120BOX
Tris-Glycine SDS Running Buffer Invitrogen LC26755
Tris-Glycine Transfer Buffer Invitrogen LC3675
TrypLE Express cell dissociation enzyme
Triton X-100 Acros Organics 327371000
Trypsin, 0.25% Corning 25-053-CL
Tween 20
Ultracentrifuge Tubes Beckman 344058 110,000 x g

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