Employing Flow Cytometry to Extracellular Vesicles Sample Microvolume Analysis and Quality Control

Front Cell Dev Biol. 2020 Oct 30:8:593750. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2020.593750. eCollection 2020.


Extracellular Vesicles (EVs), membrane vesicles released by all cells, are emerging mediators of cell-cell communication. By carrying biomolecules from tissues to biofluids, EVs have attracted attention as non-invasive sources of clinical biomarkers in liquid biopsies. EVs-based liquid biopsies usually require EVs isolation before content analysis, which frequently increases sample volume requirements. We here present a Flow Cytometry (FC) strategy that does not require isolation or concentration of EVs prior to staining. By doing so, it enables population analysis of EVs in samples characterized by challenging small volumes, while reducing overall sample processing time. To illustrate its application, we performed longitudinal non-lethal population analysis of EVs in mouse plasma and in single-animal collections of murine vitreous humor. By quantifying the proportion of vesicular particles in purified and non-purified biological samples, this method also serves as a precious tool to quality control isolates of EVs purified by different protocols. Our FC strategy has an unexplored clinical potential to analyze EVs in biofluids with intrinsically limited volumes and to multiply the number of different analytes in EVs that can be studied from a single collection of biofluid.

Keywords: cancer flow cytometry; exosomes; extracellular vesicles; liquid biopsy; longitudinal study; microvolume; population study; sample purity.