Glycan profiling analysis using evanescent-field fluorescence-assisted lectin array: Importance of sugar recognition for cellular uptake of exosomes from mesenchymal stem cells

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2017 Sep 23;491(3):701-707. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2017.07.126. Epub 2017 Jul 24.


Studies involving the functional analysis of exosomal contents including proteins, DNA, and RNA have been reported. Most membrane proteins and lipids are glycosylated, which controls their physical properties and functions, but little is known about glycans on exosomes owing to the difficulty of analysing them. To shed light on these issues, we collected exosomes from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) derived from human adipose tissue for glycan profiling using evanescent-field fluorescence-assisted lectin array as well as analysis of their uptake in vivo. Initial analyses showed that the mean diameter of the collected exosomes was 178 nm and they presented with typical exosomal and MSC markers. Regarding the glycan profiling, exosomes interacted more strongly than the membrane of the original MSCs did with a range of lectins, especially sialic acid-binding lectins. The findings also showed that cellular exosome uptake involved recognition by HeLa cell-surface-bound sialic acid-binding immunoglobulin (Ig)-like lectins (siglecs). Confirming this siglec-related uptake, in vivo experiments involving subcutaneous injection of the fluorescently labelled exosomes into mice showed their transport into lymph nodes and internalization by antigen-presenting cells, particularly those expressing CD11b. Closer analysis revealed the colocalization of the exosomes with siglecs, indicating their involvement in the uptake. These findings provide us with an improved understanding of the importance of exosomal transport and targeting in relation to glycans on exosomal surfaces, potentially enabling us to standardize exosomes when using them for therapeutic purposes.

Keywords: Exosome; Glycan; Lectin array; Mesenchymal stem cell; Sialic acid.

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Microarray Analysis / methods*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*


  • Lectins
  • Polysaccharides