Calcifying extracellular vesicles (EVs) released from cells within atherosclerotic plaques have received increased attention for their role in mediating vascular calcification, a major predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. However, little is known about the difference between this pathologic vesicle population and other EVs that contribute to physiological cellular processes. One major challenge that hinders research into these differences is the inability to selectively isolate calcifying EVs from other vesicle populations.
In this study, researchers from Harvard Medical School hypothesized that the formation of mineral within calcifying EVs would increase the density of the vesicles such that they would pellet at a faster rate during ultracentrifugation. They show that after 10 min of ultracentrifugation at 100,000×g, calcifying EVs are depleted from the conditioned media of calcifying coronary artery smooth muscle cells and are enriched in the pelleted portion. They utilized mass spectrometry to establish functional proteomic differences between the calcifying EVs enriched in the 10 min ultracentrifugation compared to other vesicle populations preferentially pelleted by longer ultracentrifugation times. The procedures established in this study will allow us to enrich the vesicle population of interest and perform advanced proteomic analyses to find subtle differences between calcifying EVs and other vesicle populations that may be translated into therapeutic targets for vascular calcification. Finally, the researchers show that the differences in ultracentrifugation times required to pellet the vesicle populations can also be used to estimate physical differences between the vesicles.