Effective communication between the maternal reproductive tract, gametes and the pre-implantation embryo is essential for the successful establishment of pregnancy. Recent studies have recognised extracellular vesicles (EVs) as potent vehicles for intercellular communication, potentially via their transport of microRNAs (miRNAs). The aim of the current investigation was to determine the size, concentration and electrical surface properties (zeta potential) of EVs secreted by; (1) primary cultures of porcine oviductal epithelial cells (POECs) from the isthmus and ampullary regions of the female reproductive tract; (2) Ishikawa and RL95-2 human endometrial epithelial cell line cultures; and (3) the non-reproductive epithelial cell line HEK293T. In addition, this study investigated whether EVs secreted by POECs contained miRNAs. All cell types were cultured in EV-depleted medium for 24 or 48 h. EVs were successfully isolated from conditioned culture media using size exclusion chromatography. Nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) was performed to evaluate EV size, concentration and zeta potential. QRT-PCR was performed to quantify the expression of candidate miRNAs (miR-103, let-7a, miR-19a, miR-203, miR-126, miR-19b, RNU44, miR-92, miR-196a, miR-326 and miR-23a). NTA confirmed the presence of EVs with diameters of 50-150 nm in all cell types. EV size distribution was significantly different between cell types after 24 and 48 h of cell culture and the concentration of EVs secreted by POECs and Ishikawa cells was also time dependent. The distribution of EVs with specific electrokinetic potential measurements varied between cell types, indicating that EVs of differing cellular origin have varied membrane components. In addition, EVs secreted by POECs exhibited significantly different time dependant changes in zeta potential. QRT-PCR confirmed the presence of miR-103, let-7a, miR-19a, miR-203, miR-126, and miR-19b in EVs secreted by POECs (CT ≥ 29). Bioinformatics analysis suggests that these miRNAs are involved in cell proliferation, innate immune responses, apoptosis and cellular migration. In conclusion, reproductive epithelial cells secrete distinct populations of EVs containing miRNAs, which potentially act in intercellular communication in order to modulate the periconception events leading to successful establishment of pregnancy.
Keywords: Exosome; Extracelluar vesicle; MicroRNA; Oviductal epithelial.
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