Extracellular RNAs are unstable and rapidly degraded unless protected. Bovine-milk extracellular vesicles (EVs) confer protection to dietary miRNAs, although it remains unclear whether this importantly improves their chances of reaching host target cells to exert biological effects.
Researchers at the IMDEA Food Research Institute exposed Caco-2, HT-29, Hep-G2 and FHs-74 cell lines to natural/labelled milk EVs to evaluate cellular uptake. Five frequently reported human milk miRNAs (miR-146b-5p, miR-148a-3p, miR-30a-5p, miR-26a-5p, and miR-22-3p) were loaded into EVs. The intracellular concentration of each miRNA in cells was determined. In addition, an animal study giving an oral dose of loaded EVs in C57BL6/ mice were performed. Gene expression regulation was assessed by microarray analysis.
Digestive stability analysis showed high overall degradation of exogenous miRNAs, although EV-protected miRNAs better resisted gastrointestinal digestion compared to free miRNAs (tenfold higher levels). Importantly, orally delivered EV-loaded miRNAs reached host organs, including brain, in mice. However, no biological effect has been identified.
Milk EVs protect miRNAs from degradation and facilitate cellular uptake. miRNA concentration in EVs from bovine milk might be insufficient to produce gene modulation. Nevertheless, sizable amounts of exogenous miRNAs may be loaded into EVs, and orally delivered EV-loaded miRNAs can reach tissues in vivo, increasing the possibility of exerting biological effects. Further investigation is justified as this could have an impact in the field of nutrition and health (i.e., infant formulas elaboration).