A novel mechanism of cell-cell communication involving exosomal transfer of mitochondria


Chronic inflammation involving both innate and adaptive immune cells is implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma. Intercellular communication is essential for driving and resolving inflammatory responses in asthma. Emerging studies suggest that extracellular vesicles (EVs) including exosomes facilitate this process. In this report, University of Alabama researchers have used a range of approaches to show that EVs contain markers of mitochondria derived from donor cells which are capable of sustaining a membrane potential. Further, they propose that these participate in intercellular communication within the airways of human subjects with asthma. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of both healthy volunteers and asthmatics contain EVs with encapsulated mitochondria; however, the % HLA-DR+ EVs containing mitochondria and the levels of mitochondrial DNA within EVs were significantly higher in asthmatics. Furthermore, mitochondria are present in exosomes derived from the pro-inflammatory HLA-DR+ subsets of airway myeloid-derived regulatory cells (MDRCs), which are known regulators of T cell responses in asthma. Exosomes tagged with MitoTracker Green, or derived from MDRCs transduced with CellLight Mitochondrial GFP were found in recipient peripheral T cells using a co-culture system, supporting direct exosome-mediated cell-cell transfer. Importantly, exosomally transferred mitochondria co-localize with the mitochondrial network and generate reactive oxygen species within recipient T cells. These findings support a potential novel mechanism of cell-cell communication involving exosomal transfer of mitochondria and the bioenergetic and/or redox regulation of target cells.

Hough KP, Trevor JL, Strenkowski JG, Wang Y, Chacko BK, Tousif S, Chanda D, Steele C, Antony VB, Dokland T, Ouyang X, Zhang J, Duncan SR, Thannickal VJ, Darley-Usmar VM, Deshane JS. (2018) Exosomal transfer of mitochondria from airway myeloid-derived regulatory cells to T cells. Redox Biol 18:54-64. [abstract]

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