Extracellular vesicles, in particular exosomes, have recently gained interest as novel drug delivery vectors due to their biological origin and inherent intercellular biomolecule delivery capability. An in-depth knowledge of their in vivo biodistribution is therefore essential. Researchers at King’s College London aimed to develop a novel, reliable and universal method to radiolabel exosomes to study their in vivo biodistribution.
Melanoma (B16F10) cells were cultured in bioreactor flasks to increase exosome yield. B16F10-derived exosomes (ExoB16) were isolated using ultracentrfugation onto a single sucrose cushion, and were characterised for size, yield, purity, exosomal markers and morphology using Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (NTA), protein measurements, flow cytometry and electron microscopy. ExoB16 were radiolabelled using 2 different approaches – intraluminal labelling (entrapment of 111Indium via tropolone shuttling); and membrane labelling (chelation of 111Indium via covalently attached bifunctional chelator DTPA-anhydride). Labelling efficiency and stability was assessed using gel filtration and thin layer chromatography. Melanoma-bearing immunocompetent (C57BL/6) and immunodeficient (NSG) mice were injected intravenously with radiolabelled ExoB16 (1×1011 particles/mouse) followed by metabolic cages study, whole body SPECT-CT imaging and ex vivo gamma counting at 1, 4 and 24 h post-injection.
Membrane-labelled ExoB16 showed superior radiolabelling efficiency and radiochemical stability (19.2 ± 4.53 % and 80.4 ± 1.6 % respectively) compared to the intraluminal-labelled exosomes (4.73 ± 0.39 % and 14.21 ± 2.76 % respectively). Using the membrane-labelling approach, the in vivo biodistribution of ExoB16 in melanoma-bearing C57Bl/6 mice was carried out, and was found to accumulate primarily in the liver and spleen (~56% and ~38% ID/gT respectively), followed by the kidneys (~3% ID/gT). ExoB16 showed minimal tumour i.e. self-tissue accumulation (~0.7% ID/gT). The membrane-labelling approach was also used to study ExoB16 biodistribution in melanoma-bearing immunocompromised (NSG) mice, to compare with that in the immunocompetent C57Bl/6 mice. Similar biodistribution profile was observed in both C57BL/6 and NSG mice, where prominent accumulation was seen in liver and spleen, apart from the significantly lower tumour accumulation observed in the NSG mice (~0.3% ID/gT).
(A) Intraluminal and (B) membrane radiolabelling protocols of B16F10 exosomes
Membrane radiolabelling of exosomes is a reliable approach that allows for accurate live imaging and quantitative biodistribution studies to be performed on potentially all exosome types without engineering parent cells.