A method for isolation and enrichment of purified bovine milk exosomes

Exosomes are nanovesicles that play important roles in intercellular communication as they carry information to target cells. Isolation of high purity exosomes will aid in studying the exosomal cargo and quantity as well as how cell-specific messages are carried. Researchers from the University of Queensland describe a new method incorporating size exclusion chromatography (SEC) to enrich milk-derived exosomes from extracellular vesicles (EVs). This involved the initial isolation of EVs from bovine milk via milk processing and ultracentrifugation; followed by a new method to enrich exosomes using SEC. This method was compared to buoyant density gradient centrifugation, a widely used method of enrichment. Exosomes were characterised by particle concentration and size (nanoparticle tracking analysis, NTA), morphology (transmission electron microscopy, TEM), presence of exosomal markers (immunoblotting) and protein concentration (bicinchoninic acid assay, BCA). Proteomic profiles of exosomal fractions were analyzed by mass spectrometry using Information Dependant Acquisition. Milk exosomal fractions were shown to contain exosomal markers flotillin-1 (FLOT-1) and tumor susceptibility gene-101 (TSG-101). The new method produced a higher yield of exosomes compared to buoyant density gradient centrifugation. Pooled exosomal fractions exhibited intact morphology by TEM. The use of SEC confirmed the fractionation of exosomes based on size while minimizing the interference with proteins. Tetraspanins CD9 and CD81 were observed via mass spectrometry in exosomal fractions. This new and efficient method confirmed the signatures for exosomes derived from unpasteurized bovine milk. Purification of exosomes is a foundational technique in the study of biomarkers for pathological conditions and effective drug delivery systems.

Flowchart for the comparison of two exosome enrichment methods


Buoyant density gradient centrifugation (Method A) and size exclusion chromatography (Method B). (A) 500 μL of EV suspension was loaded on top of the OptiPrep™ gradient and ultracentrifuged for 20 h to obtain 12 fractions as described in the flowchart. (B) 500 μL of EV suspension was introduced on top of a SEC column (qEV column) and processed via size exclusion chromatography to obtain 16 fractions as described in the flowchart.

Vaswani K, Koh YQ, Almughlliq FB, Peiris HN, Mitchell MD. (2017) A method for the isolation and enrichment of purified bovine milk exosomes. Reprod Biol [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]

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