The ability to isolate extracellular vesicles (EVs) such as exosomes or microparticles is an important method that is currently not standardized. While commercially available kits offer purification of EVs from biofluids, such purified EV samples will also contain non-EV entities such as soluble protein and nucleic acids that could confound subsequent experimentation. Ideally, only EVs would be isolated and no soluble protein would be present in the final EV preparation.
Researchers from the Lawson Health Research Institute compared commercially available EV isolation kits with immunoaffinity purification techniques and evaluated their final EV preparations using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and nanoscale flow cytometry (NFC). AFM is the only modality capable of detecting distinguishing soluble protein from EVs which is important for downstream proteomics approaches. NFC is the only technique capable of quantitating the proportion of target EVs to non-target EVs in the final EV preparation.
To determine enrichment of prostate derived EVs relative to non-target MPs, anti-PSMA (Prostate Specific Membrane Antigen) antibodies were used in NFC. Antibody-based immunoaffinity purification generated the highest quality of prostate derived EV preparations due to the lack of protein and RNA present in the samples. All kits produced poor purity EV preparations that failed to deplete the sample of plasma protein.
Atomic force microscopy and nanoscale flow cytometry of
prostate derived EVs isolated using different methods
AFM images representing the height and amplitude of isolated EVs demonstrate the differences in content of extracellular vesicles vs co-isolated contaminant protein and non-target particles. Nanoscale flow cytometry (NFC) of all samples also demonstrates the differences between all methods in depleting “noise” populations (outside red boxes) (A-D)
While attractive due to their ease of use, EV purification kits do not provide substantial improvements in isolation of EVs from biofluids such as plasma. Immunoaffinity approaches are more efficient and economical and will also eliminate a significant portion of plasma proteins which is necessary for downstream approaches.