Isolation and Characterization of Functionally Active Extracellular Vesicles from Culture Medium Conditioned by Bovine Embryos In Vitro

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Dec 21;20(1):38. doi: 10.3390/ijms20010038.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) play a possible role in cell⁻cell communication and are found in various body fluids and cell conditioned culture media. The aim of this study was to isolate and characterize EVs in culture medium conditioned by bovine embryos in group and to verify if these EVs are functionally active. Initially, ultracentrifuged bovine serum albumin (BSA) containing medium was selected as suitable EV-free embryo culture medium. Next, EVs were isolated from embryo conditioned culture medium by OptiPrepTM density gradient ultracentrifugation. Isolated EVs were characterized by nanoparticle tracking analysis, western blotting, transmission, and immunoelectron microscopy. Bovine embryo-derived EVs were sizing between 25⁻230 nm with an average concentration of 236.5 ± 1.27 × 10⁸ particles/mL. Moreover, PKH67 EV pre-labeling showed that embryo-secreted EVs were uptaken by zona-intact bovine embryos. Since BSA did not appear to be a contaminating EV source in culture medium, EV functionality was tested in BSA containing medium. Individual embryo culture in BSA medium enriched with EVs derived from conditioned embryo culture medium showed significantly higher blastocyst rates at day 7 and 8 together with a significantly lower apoptotic cell ratio. In conclusion, our study shows that EVs play an important role in inter embryo communication during bovine embryo culture in group.

Keywords: OptiprepTM density gradient ultracentrifugation; bovine; embryo culture; embryo–embryo communication; extracellular vesicles; uptake of embryo-secreted EVs.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cell Fractionation* / methods
  • Centrifugation, Density Gradient
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / metabolism*
  • Embryo Culture Techniques
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / ultrastructure


  • Culture Media, Conditioned