Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are submicron vesicles released from many cell types, including adipocytes. EVs are implicated in the pathogenesis of obesity-driven cardiovascular disease, although the characteristics of adipocyte-derived EVs are not well described.
Researchers at Cardiff University sought to define the characteristics of adipocyte-derived EVs before and after adipogenesis, hypothesising that adipogenesis would affect EV structure, molecular composition and function. Using 3T3-L1 cells, EVs were harvested at day 0 and day 15 of differentiation. EV and cell preparations were visualised by electron microscopy and EVs quantified by nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA). EVs were then assessed for annexin V positivity using flow cytometry; lipid and phospholipid composition using 2D thin layer chromatography and gas chromatography; and vesicular protein content by an immuno-phenotyping assay. Pre-adipogenic cells are connected via a network of protrusions and EVs at both time points display classic EV morphology. EV concentration is elevated prior to adipogenesis, particularly in exosomes and small microvesicles. Parent cells contain higher proportions of phosphatidylserine (PS) and show higher annexin V binding. Both cells and EVs contain an increased proportion of arachidonic acid at day 0. PREF-1 was increased at day 0 whilst adiponectin was higher at day 15 indicating EV protein content reflects the stage of adipogenesis of the cell.
Electron microscopy of 3T3-L1 cells and corresponding EVs pre- and post-differentiation. Scanning electron microscopy images of 3T3-L1 cells at day 0 (A) and day 15 (B). Transmission electron microscopy images of 3T3-L1 EVs at day 0 (C) and day 15 (D). Note scale bars differ between images and types of electron microscopy.
These data suggest that EV production is higher in cells before adipogenesis, particularly in vesicles <300 nm. Cells at this time point possess a greater proportion of PS (required for EV generation) whilst corresponding EVs are enriched in signalling fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid, and markers of adipogenesis, such as PREF-1 and PPARγ.