Characterization of nucleic acids from extracellular vesicle-enriched human sweat

The human sweat is a mixture of secretions from three types of glands: eccrine, apocrine, and sebaceous. Eccrine glands open directly on the skin surface and produce high amounts of water-based fluid in response to heat, emotion, and physical activity, whereas the other glands produce oily fluids and waxy sebum. While most body fluids have been shown to contain nucleic acids, both as ribonucleoprotein complexes and associated with extracellular vesicles (EVs), these have not been investigated in sweat. In this study University of Oulu researchers aimed to explore and characterize the nucleic acids associated with sweat particles.

The researchers used next generation sequencing (NGS) to characterize DNA and RNA in pooled and individual samples of EV-enriched sweat collected from volunteers performing rigorous exercise. In all sequenced samples, they identified DNA originating from all human chromosomes, but only the mitochondrial chromosome was highly represented with 100% coverage. Most of the DNA mapped to unannotated regions of the human genome with some regions highly represented in all samples. Approximately 5 % of the reads were found to map to other genomes: including bacteria (83%), archaea (3%), and virus (13%), identified bacteria species were consistent with those commonly colonizing the human upper body and arm skin. Small RNA-seq from EV-enriched pooled sweat RNA resulted in 74% of the trimmed reads mapped to the human genome, with 29% corresponding to unannotated regions. Over 70% of the RNA reads mapping to an annotated region were tRNA, while misc. RNA (18,5%), protein coding RNA (5%) and miRNA (1,85%) were much less represented. RNA-seq from individually processed EV-enriched sweat collection generally resulted in fewer percentage of reads mapping to the human genome (7–45%), with 50–60% of those reads mapping to unannotated region of the genome and 30–55% being tRNAs, and lower percentage of reads being rRNA, LincRNA, misc. RNA, and protein coding RNA.



Description of the workflow: left side preparation of EV-enriched sweat DNA. Middle preparation of EV-enriched Sweat RNA from pool for small RNA-seq. Right preparation of EV-enriched sweat RNA from individuals

These data demonstrates that sweat, as all other body fluids, contains a wealth of nucleic acids, including DNA and RNA of human and microbial origin, opening a possibility to investigate sweat as a source for biomarkers for specific health parameters.

Bart G, Fischer D, Samoylenko A, Zhyvolozhnyi A, Stehantsev P, Miinalainen I, Kaakinen M, Nurmi T, Singh P, Kosamo S, Rannaste L, Viitala S, Hiltunen J, Vainio SJ. (2021) Characterization of nucleic acids from extracellular vesicle-enriched human sweat. BMC Genomics 22(1):425. [article]

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