Transcriptomic Characterization of Cow, Donkey and Goat Milk Extracellular Vesicles Reveals Their Anti-Inflammatory and Immunomodulatory Potential

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Nov 25;22(23):12759. doi: 10.3390/ijms222312759.


Milk extracellular vesicles (mEVs) seem to be one of the main maternal messages delivery systems. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are micro/nano-sized membrane-bound structures enclosing signaling molecules and thus acting as signal mediators between distant cells and/or tissues, exerting biological effects such as immune modulation and pro-regenerative activity. Milk is also a unique, scalable, and reliable source of EVs. Our aim was to characterize the RNA content of cow, donkey, and goat mEVs through transcriptomic analysis of mRNA and small RNA libraries. Over 10,000 transcripts and 2000 small RNAs were expressed in mEVs of each species. Among the most represented transcripts, 110 mRNAs were common between the species with cow acting as the most divergent. The most represented small RNA class was miRNA in all the species, with 10 shared miRNAs having high impact on the immune regulatory function. Functional analysis for the most abundant mRNAs shows epigenetic functions such as histone modification, telomere maintenance, and chromatin remodeling for cow; lipid catabolism, oxidative stress, and vitamin metabolism for donkey; and terms related to chemokine receptor interaction, leukocytes migration, and transcriptional regulation in response to stress for goat. For miRNA targets, shared terms emerged as the main functions for all the species: immunity modulation, protein synthesis, cellular cycle regulation, transmembrane exchanges, and ion channels. Moreover, donkey and goat showed additional terms related to epigenetic modification and DNA maintenance. Our results showed a potential mEVs immune regulatory purpose through their RNA cargo, although in vivo validation studies are necessary.

Keywords: RNAseq; anti-inflammatory; cow; donkey; extracellular vesicles; goat; immunomodulatory; mEVs; miRNA; milk.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / metabolism*
  • Cattle
  • Equidae
  • Extracellular Vesicles / genetics
  • Extracellular Vesicles / immunology*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Goats
  • Immunomodulation*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Milk / immunology*
  • Milk / metabolism
  • Transcriptome*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • MicroRNAs