Small extracellular vesicles (EVs) are 50-200 nm sized mediators in intercellular communication that reflect both physiological and pathophysiological changes of their parental cells. Thus, EVs hold great potential for biomarker detection. However, reliable purification methods for the downstream screening of the microRNA (miRNA) cargo carried within urinary EVs by small RNA sequencing have yet to be established. To address this knowledge gap, RNA extracted from human urinary EVs obtained by five different urinary EV purification methods (spin column chromatography, immunoaffinity, membrane affinity, precipitation and ultracentrifugation combined with density gradient) was analyzed by small RNA sequencing. Urinary EVs were further characterized by nanoparticle tracking analysis, Western blot analysis and transmission electron microscopy. Comprehensive EV characterization established significant method-dependent differences in size and concentration as well as variances in protein composition of isolated vesicles. Even though all purification methods captured enough total RNA to allow small RNA sequencing, method-dependent differences were also observed with respect to library sizes, mapping distributions, number of miRNA reads and diversity of transcripts. Whereas EVs obtained by immunoaffinity yielded the purest subset of small EVs, highly comparable with results attained by ultracentrifugation combined with density gradient, precipitation and membrane affinity, sample purification by spin column chromatography indicated a tendency to isolate different subtypes of small EVs, which might also carry a distinct subset of miRNAs. Based on our results, different EV purification methods seem to preferentially isolate different subtypes of EVs with varying efficiencies. As a consequence, sequencing experiments and resulting miRNA profiles were also affected. Hence, the selection of a specific EV isolation method has to satisfy the respective research question and should be well considered. In strict adherence with the MISEV (minimal information for studies of extracellular vesicles) guidelines, the importance of a combined evaluation of biophysical and proteomic EV characteristics alongside transcriptomic results was clearly demonstrated in this present study.
Keywords: A, spin column chromatography; ANOVA, analysis of variance; Ago2, argonaute-2 protein; B, immunoaffinity; Biomarker; C, membrane affinity; D, precipitation; DGE, differential gene expression; DTT, dithiothreitol; E, ultracentrifugation combined with density gradient; EV(s), extracellular vesicle(s); Extracellular vesicles; FM, fluorescent mode; Human; MISEV, minimal information for studies of extracellular vesicles; NTA, nanoparticle tracking analysis; PC, principal component; RIN, RNA integrity number; RNA-Seq, RNA sequencing; SM, scattering mode; Small RNA sequencing; TEM, transmission electron microscopy; UCrea, urinary creatinine; Urine; mIgG, murine immunoglobulin G; mRNA, messenger RNA; miRNA, microRNA; microRNA; nm, nanometer(s); nt, nucleotide(s); rRNA, ribosomal RNA; snRNA, small nuclear RNA; snoRNA, small nucleolar RNA; tRNA, transfer RNA; uEVs, urinary extracellular vesicles.