Potential and challenges of specifically isolating extracellular vesicles from heterogeneous populations

Sci Rep. 2021 Jun 2;11(1):11585. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-91129-y.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have attracted interest due to their ability to provide diagnostic information from liquid biopsies. Cells constantly release vesicles divers in size, content and features depending on the biogenesis, origin and function. This heterogeneity adds a layer of complexity when attempting to isolate and characterize EVs resulting in various protocols. Their high abundance in all bodily fluids and their stable source of origin dependent biomarkers make EVs a powerful tool in biomarker discovery and diagnostics. However, applications are limited by the quality of samples definition. Here, we compared frequently used isolation techniques: ultracentrifugation, density gradient centrifugation, ultrafiltration and size exclusion chromatography. Then, we aimed for a tissue-specific isolation of prostate-derived EVs from cell culture supernatants with immunomagnetic beads. Quality and quantity of EVs were confirmed by nanoparticle tracking analysis, western blot and electron microscopy. Additionally, a spotted antibody microarray was developed to characterize EV sub-populations. Current analysis of 16 samples on one microarray for 6 different EV surface markers in triplicate could be easily extended allowing a faster and more economical method to characterize samples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Surface / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatography, Gel / methods
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunomagnetic Separation / methods
  • Male
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ultracentrifugation / methods
  • Ultrafiltration / methods


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Biomarkers
  • FOLH1 protein, human
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II