Obesity is a chronic disease that interferes with normal repair processes, including adipose mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (ASCs) function. ASCs produce extracellular vesicles (EVs) that activate a repair program in recipient cells partly via their micro-RNA (miRNA) cargo. Mayo Clinic researchers hypothesized that obesity alters the miRNA expression profile of human ASC-derived EVs, limiting their capacity to repair injured cells. Human ASCs were harvested from obese and age- and gender-matched non-obese (lean) subjects during bariatric or cosmetic surgeries, respectively (n = 5 each), and their EVs isolated. Following high-throughput sequencing analysis, differentially expressed miRNAs were identified and their gene targets classified based on cellular component, molecular function, and biological process. The capacity of human lean- and obese-EVs to modulate inflammation, apoptosis, as well as mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and Wnt signaling in injured human proximal tubular epithelial (HK2) cells was evaluated in vitro. The number of EVs released from lean- and obese-ASCs was similar, but obese-EVs were smaller compared to lean-EVs. Differential expression analysis revealed 8 miRNAs upregulated (fold change > 1.4, p < 0.05) and 75 downregulated (fold change < 0.7, p < 0.05) in obese-EVs vs. lean-EVs. miRNAs upregulated in obese-EVs participate in regulation of NFk-B and MAPK signaling, cytoskeleton organization, and apoptosis, whereas those downregulated in obese-EVs are implicated in cell cycle, angiogenesis, and Wnt and MAPK signaling. Treatment of injured HK2 cells with obese-EVs failed to decrease inflammation, and they decreased apoptosis and MAPK signaling significantly less effectively than their lean counterparts. Obesity alters the size and miRNA cargo of human ASC-derived EVs, as well as their ability to modulate important injury pathways in recipient cells. These observations may guide development of novel strategies to improve healing and repair in obese individuals.
Characterization of ASC-derived EVs and their daughter EVs
(A) Flow cytometry analysis of human ASCs. Cells were stained with anti-CD73, CD90, CD105, CD14, CD34, and CD45 antibodies. (B) ASC-derived EVs expressed common EV markers, including CD9, CD63, and CD81 by Western blotting. (C) Transmission electron microscopy showing ASC-derived lean- and obese-EVs exhibiting the classic “cup-like” morphology. (D) Representative size-distribution curve of lean- and obese-EVs by nanosight tracking analysis (NTA). (E) Quantification of EV concentration and size by NTA (Student’s t-test). *p < 0.05 vs. Lean-EVs.