Dual mechanism of type VII collagen transfer by bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell extracellular vesicles to recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa fibroblasts

Biochimie. 2018 Dec:155:50-58. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2018.04.007. Epub 2018 Apr 10.


Recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB) is a severe blistering disease resulting from a lack of type VII collagen production. Recent clinical trials have shown efficacy of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs) in the treatment of epidermolysis bullosa, including improved basement membrane restructuring and cutaneous wound healing. The mechanism as to how type VII collagen is transferred from donor stem cell to recipient RDEB cells has not been defined. Here, we submit the model that BM-MSC-derived extracellular vesicles serve at least two roles: 1) to help transport type VII collagen within the extracellular space; and 2) to feed RDEB fibroblasts with messenger RNA that codes for type VII collagen, resulting in COL7A1 translation and synthesis of type VII collagen alpha chain proteins by RDEB fibroblasts. Utilizing a chemoselective ligation detection method, we found RDEB cells that were treated simultaneously with BM-MSC EVs and an l-methionine analog, l-homopropargylglycine (HPG), synthesized collagen VII alpha chain protein that contained the alkyne group of HPG to react (i.e. undergo the Click-iT® reaction) with azide-modified Alexa 594, suggesting de novo synthesis of type VII collagen by RDEB fibroblasts. Thus, our results support a model in which BM-MSC EVs help increase type VII collagen levels available to recipient cells by 1) donating BM-MSC type VII collagen protein and 2) inducing RDEB fibroblasts to make their own type VII collagen protein. These findings allow us to hypothesize that the secretome of BM-MSCs could have therapeutic value in the treatment of RDEB-related skin disorders.

Keywords: Epidermolysis bullosa; Extracellular vesicles; Stem cells; Type VII collagen.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Collagen Type VII / metabolism*
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa / metabolism
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa / pathology
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / pathology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / pathology


  • COL7A1 protein, human
  • Collagen Type VII