Molecular and Functional Diversity of Distinct Subpopulations of the Stressed Insulin-Secreting Cell's Vesiculome

Front Immunol. 2020 Sep 30;11:1814. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.01814. eCollection 2020.


Beta cell failure and apoptosis following islet inflammation have been associated with autoimmune type 1 diabetes pathogenesis. As conveyors of biological active material, extracellular vesicles (EV) act as mediators in communication with immune effectors fostering the idea that EV from inflamed beta cells may contribute to autoimmunity. Evidence accumulates that beta exosomes promote diabetogenic responses, but relative contributions of larger vesicles as well as variations in the composition of the beta cell's vesiculome due to environmental changes have not been explored yet. Here, we made side-by-side comparisons of the phenotype and function of apoptotic bodies (AB), microvesicles (MV) and small EV (sEV) isolated from an equal amount of MIN6 beta cells exposed to inflammatory, hypoxic or genotoxic stressors. Under normal conditions, large vesicles represent 93% of the volume, but only 2% of the number of the vesicles. Our data reveal a consistently higher release of AB and sEV and to a lesser extent of MV, exclusively under inflammatory conditions commensurate with a 4-fold increase in the total volume of the vesiculome and enhanced export of immune-stimulatory material including the autoantigen insulin, microRNA, and cytokines. Whilst inflammation does not change the concentration of insulin inside the EV, specific Toll-like receptor-binding microRNA sequences preferentially partition into sEV. Exposure to inflammatory stress engenders drastic increases in the expression of monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 in all EV and of interleukin-27 solely in AB suggesting selective sorting toward EV subspecies. Functional in vitro assays in mouse dendritic cells and macrophages reveal further differences in the aptitude of EV to modulate expression of cytokines and maturation markers. These findings highlight the different quantitative and qualitative imprints of environmental changes in subpopulations of beta EV that may contribute to the spread of inflammation and sustained immune cell recruitment at the inception of the (auto-) immune response.

Keywords: Toll-like receptor; apoptotic bodies; exosomes; extracellular vesicles; microRNA; microvesicles; type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • DNA Damage
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Extracellular Vesicles / immunology
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / immunology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / ultrastructure
  • Macrophage Activation
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • RAW 264.7 Cells
  • Secretory Pathway
  • Signal Transduction


  • Cytokines
  • Insulin
  • MicroRNAs