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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Method for isolation and molecular characterization of extracellular microvesicles released from brain endothelial cells

Arsalan S Haqqani*, Christie E Delaney, Tammy-Lynn Tremblay, Caroline Sodja, Jagdeep K Sandhu and Danica B Stanimirovic

Author Affiliations

National Research Council of Canada, Human Health Therapeutics Portfolio, 100 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0R6, Canada

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Fluids and Barriers of the CNS 2013, 10:4  doi:10.1186/2045-8118-10-4

Published: 10 January 2013

Abstract

Background

In addition to possessing intracellular vesicles, eukaryotic cells also produce extracellular microvesicles, ranging from 50 to 1000 nm in diameter that are released or shed into the microenvironment under physiological and pathological conditions. These membranous extracellular organelles include both exosomes (originating from internal vesicles of endosomes) and ectosomes (originating from direct budding/shedding of plasma membranes). Extracellular microvesicles contain cell-specific collections of proteins, glycoproteins, lipids, nucleic acids and other molecules. These vesicles play important roles in intercellular communication by acting as carrier for essential cell-specific information to target cells. Endothelial cells in the brain form the blood–brain barrier, a specialized interface between the blood and the brain that tightly controls traffic of nutrients and macromolecules between two compartments and interacts closely with other cells forming the neurovascular unit. Therefore, brain endothelial cell extracellular microvesicles could potentially play important roles in ‘externalizing’ brain-specific biomarkers into the blood stream during pathological conditions, in transcytosis of blood-borne molecules into the brain, and in cell-cell communication within the neurovascular unit.

Methods

To study cell-specific molecular make-up and functions of brain endothelial cell exosomes, methods for isolation of extracellular microvesicles using mass spectrometry-compatible protocols and the characterization of their signature profiles using mass spectrometry -based proteomics were developed.

Results

A total of 1179 proteins were identified in the isolated extracellular microvesicles from brain endothelial cells. The microvesicles were validated by identification of almost 60 known markers, including Alix, TSG101 and the tetraspanin proteins CD81 and CD9. The surface proteins on isolated microvesicles could potentially interact with both primary astrocytes and cortical neurons, as cell-cell communication vesicles. Finally, brain endothelial cell extracellular microvesicles were shown to contain several receptors previously shown to carry macromolecules across the blood brain barrier, including transferrin receptor, insulin receptor, LRPs, LDL and TMEM30A.

Conclusions

The methods described here permit identification of the molecular signatures for brain endothelial cell-specific extracellular microvesicles under various biological conditions. In addition to being a potential source of useful biomarkers, these vesicles contain potentially novel receptors known for delivering molecules across the blood–brain barrier.

Keywords:
Exosomes; Proteomics; Blood–brain barrier; Drug delivery; Mass spectrometry; Microvesicles; Endothelial cells; CNS; Biomarkers; Receptor-mediated transcytosis