Qualitative differences in T-cell activation by dendritic cell-derived extracellular vesicle subtypes

EMBO J. 2017 Oct 16;36(20):3012-3028. doi: 10.15252/embj.201696003. Epub 2017 Sep 18.


Exosomes, nano-sized secreted extracellular vesicles (EVs), are actively studied for their diagnostic and therapeutic potential. In particular, exosomes secreted by dendritic cells (DCs) have been shown to carry MHC-peptide complexes allowing efficient activation of T lymphocytes, thus displaying potential as promoters of adaptive immune responses. DCs also secrete other types of EVs of different size, subcellular origin and protein composition, whose immune capacities have not been yet compared to those of exosomes. Here, we show that large EVs (lEVs) released by human DCs are as efficient as small EVs (sEVs), including exosomes, to induce CD4+ T-cell activation in vitro When released by immature DCs, however, lEVs and sEVs differ in their capacity to orient T helper (Th) cell responses, the former favouring secretion of Th2 cytokines, whereas the latter promote Th1 cytokine secretion (IFN-γ). Upon DC maturation, however, these functional differences are abolished, and all EVs become able to induce IFN-γ. Our results highlight the need to comprehensively compare the functionalities of EV subtypes in all patho/physiological systems where exosomes are claimed to perform critical roles.

Keywords: CD4+ T cells; dendritic cells; exosomes; extracellular vesicles; microvesicles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation*