Highly-purified exosomes and shed microvesicles isolated from the human colon cancer cell line LIM1863 by sequential centrifugal ultrafiltration are biochemically and functionally distinct Academic Article uri icon


  • Secretion and exchange of extracellular vesicles (EVs) by most cell types is emerging as a fundamental biological process. Although much is known about EVs, there is still a lack of definition as to how many naturally occurring EV subtypes there are and how their properties and functionalities might differ. This vexing issue is critical if EVs are to be fully harnessed for therapeutic applications. To address this question we have developed and describe here a sequential centrifugal ultrafiltration (SCUF) method to examine, in an unbiased manner, what EV subtypes are released in vitro into cell culture medium using the human colon carcinoma cell line LIM1863 as a model system. Using the culture medium from ∼7.2×10(9) LIM1863 cells, SCUF was performed using hydrophilic PVDF membranes with low protein binding properties (Millipore Durapore™ Ultrafree-CL filters with 0.1, 0.22, 0.45 and 0.65 μm pore size). EV particle sizing was measured using both dynamic light scattering and cryo-electron microscopy. Comparative proteome profiling was performed by GeLC-MS/MS and qualitative protein differences between EV subtypes determined by label-free spectral counting. The results showed essentially two EV subtypes; one subtype (fraction Fn1) comprised heterogeneous EVs with particle diameters of 30-1300 nm, the other (fraction Fn5) being homogeneous EVs of 30-100 nm diameter; based on cryo-EM both EV subtypes were round shaped. Western blot analysis showed Fn5 (SCUF-Exos) contained traditional exosome marker proteins (Alix(+), TSG101(+), CD81(+), CD63(+)), while Fn1 (SCUF-sMVs) lacked these protein markers. These findings were consistent with sMVs isolated by differential centrifugation (10,000 g, DC-sMVs) and exosomes (100,000 g EVs depleted of 10,000 g material). The buoyant density of sMVs determined by OptiPrep™ density gradient centrifugation was 1.18-1.19 g/mL and exosomes 1.10-1.11 g/mL. Comparative protein profiling of SCUF-Exos/-sMVs revealed 354 and 606 unambiguous protein identifications, respectively, with 256 proteins in common. A salient finding was the first report of 350 proteins uniquely identified in sMVs may of which have the potential to enable discrimination of this EV subtype from exosomes (notably, members of the septin family, kinesin-like protein (KIF23), exportin-2/chromosome segregation like-1 protein (CSE1L), and Rac GTPase-activating protein 1 (RACGAP1)). We report for the first time that both SCUF-Exos and SCUF-sMVs isolated from LIM1863 colon cancer cells induce invasion of recipient NIH3T3 cells. Interestingly, the SCUF-sMVs promote invasion to a significantly greater extent (3-fold) than SCUF-Exos. This analytical SCUF method for fractionating EVs is potentially scalable using tangential flow filtration, thereby providing a solid foundation for future in-depth functional studies of EV subtypes using diverse cell types and functional assays.

publication date

  • 2015

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