Small RNA analysis in exosomes provides insights into localized RNA processing, degradation and sorting

Exosomes are small vesicles that mediate cell-cell communication. They contain proteins, lipids and RNA, and evidence is accumulating that these molecules are specifically sorted for release via exosomes. Researchers from UMC Utrecht recently showed that endothelial-cell-produced exosomes promote angiogenesis in vivo in a small RNA-dependent manner. Recent deep sequencing studies in exosomes from lymphocytic origin revealed a broad spectrum of small RNAs. However, selective depletion or incorporation of small RNA species into endothelial exosomes has not been studied extensively.

With next generation sequencing, the researchers identified all known non-coding RNA classes, including microRNAs (miRNAs), small nucleolar RNAs, yRNAs, vault RNAs, 5p and 3p fragments of miRNAs and miRNA-like fragments. In addition, they mapped many fragments of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and mitochondrial RNAs (mtRNAs). The distribution of small RNAs in exosomes revealed a considerable overlap with the distribution in the producing cells. However, they identified a remarkable enrichment of yRNA fragments and mRNA degradation products in exosomes consistent with yRNAs having a role in degradation of structured and misfolded RNAs in close proximity to endosomes. The researchers propose that endothelial endosomes selectively sequester cytoplasmic RNA-degrading machineries taking part in gene regulation. The release of these regulatory RNAs via exosomes may have implications for endothelial cell-cell communication.

exosome rna

yRNA and vault RNA (vRNA). (a) Coverage tracks of identified vRNAs and yRNAs in cells and exosomes and (b) 2D structure of hRNY5, with the predominant fragments identified in cells and exosomes indicated.

van Balkom BW, Eisele AS, Pegtel DM, Bervoets S, Verhaar MC. (2015) Quantitative and qualitative analysis of small RNAs in human endothelial cells and exosomes provides insights into localized RNA processing, degradation and sorting. J Extracell Vesicles 4:26760. [article]

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