Primary cilia and the exocyst are linked to urinary extracellular vesicle production and content

J Biol Chem. 2019 Dec 13;294(50):19099-19110. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.009297. Epub 2019 Nov 6.


The recently proposed idea of "urocrine signaling" hypothesizes that small secreted extracellular vesicles (EVs) contain proteins that transmit signals to distant cells. However, the role of renal primary cilia in EV production and content is unclear. We previously showed that the exocyst, a highly conserved trafficking complex, is necessary for ciliogenesis; that it is present in human urinary EVs; that knockdown (KD) of exocyst complex component 5 (EXOC5), a central exocyst component, results in very short or absent cilia; and that human EXOC5 overexpression results in longer cilia. Here, we show that compared with control Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells, EXOC5 overexpression increases and KD decreases EV numbers. Proteomic analyses of isolated EVs from EXOC5 control, KD, and EXOC5-overexpressing MDCK cells revealed significant alterations in protein composition. Using immunoblotting to specifically examine the expression levels of ADP-ribosylation factor 6 (ARF6) and EPS8-like 2 (EPS8L2) in EVs, we found that EXOC5 KD increases ARF6 levels and decreases EPS8L2 levels, and that EXOC5 overexpression increases EPS8L2. Knockout of intraflagellar transport 88 (IFT88) confirmed that the changes in EV number/content were due to cilia loss: similar to EXOC5, the IFT88 loss resulted in very short or absent cilia, decreased EV numbers, increased EV ARF6 levels, and decreased Eps8L2 levels compared with IFT88-rescued EVs. Compared with control animals, urine from proximal tubule-specific EXOC5-KO mice contained fewer EVs and had increased ARF6 levels. These results indicate that perturbations in exocyst and primary cilia affect EV number and protein content.

Keywords: cilia; exocytosis; extracellular vesicles; kidney; protein export.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ADP-Ribosylation Factor 6
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cilia / metabolism*
  • Dogs
  • Exocytosis*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / deficiency
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / metabolism*


  • ADP-Ribosylation Factor 6
  • EXOC5 protein, human
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • ARF6 protein, human
  • Arf6 protein, mouse