Cell-to-cell communication strategies include extracellular vesicles (EVs) in plants and animals. The bioactive molecules in a diet rich in vegetables and fruits are associated with disease-preventive effects. Plant-derived EVs (PDEVs) are biogenetically and morphologically comparable to mammalian EVs and transport bioactive molecules, including miRNAs. However, the biological functions of PDEVs are not fully understood, and standard isolation protocols are lacking.
Researchers at the Instituto IMDEA, Spain have isolated PDEVs from four foods with a combination of ultracentrifugation and size exclusion chromatography, and evaluated as vehicles for enhanced transport of synthetic miRNAs. In addition, the role of food-derived EVs as carriers of dietary (poly)phenols and other secondary metabolites was investigated. EVs from broccoli, pomegranate, apple, and orange were efficiently isolated and characterized. In all four sources, 4 miRNA families were present in tissues and EVs. miRNAs present in broccoli and fruit-derived EVs showed a reduced RNase degradation and were ferried inside exposed cells. EVs transfected with a combination of ath-miR159a, ath-miR162a-3p, ath-miR166b-3p, and ath-miR396b-5p showed toxic effects to human cells, as did natural broccoli EVs alone. PDEVs transport trace amounts of phytochemicals, including flavonoids, anthocyanidins, phenolic acids, or glucosinolates. Thus, PDEVs can act as nanocarriers for functional miRNAs that could be used in RNA-based therapy.