A systematic review of EV-piRNA in human body fluid and its role in disease progression

Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2022 Aug 12. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2022.0092. Online ahead of print.


The state of host cells is reflected in the cargo carried by their extracellular vesicles (EVs). This makes EV a potential source of biomarkers for human diseases. Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) regulates gene expression through epigenetic regulation and post-transcriptional gene silencing. Thus, piRNA profiles in EVs derived from human clinical samples could identify markers that characterize disease stages, and unveil their roles in disease pathology. This review aimed to report the expression profiles of EV-derived piRNA (EV-piRNA) in various human samples, as well as their role in each pathology. A systematic review was conducted to collate the findings of human EV-piRNA from original research articles published in indexed scientific journals up to 16th Feb 2022. Article searches were performed in PubMed, Web of Science, and Scopus databases, using a combination of keywords including 'EV' and 'piRNA'. A total of 775 non-redundant original articles were identified. After subjecting articles to inclusion and exclusion criteria, 34 articles were accepted for this review. The piRNA expression levels among the small RNA profiles of human-derived EVs range from 0.09% to 43.84%, with the lowest expression level reported in urine-derived EVs and the highest percentage in plasma-derived EVs. Differentially expressed EV-piRNAs have been identified in patients with specific disease conditions compared to their counterparts (healthy control), suggesting an association between piRNA and progression in various diseases. Seven articles identified piRNA putative target genes and/or the pathway enrichment of piRNA target genes, and one study demonstrated a direct role of piRNA candidates in disease pathology. In conclusion, EV-piRNA has been isolated successfully from various human body fluids. EV-piRNA is a new research niche in human disease pathology. The expression profiles of EV-piRNA in various tissue types and disease conditions remain largely unexplored. Furthermore, there is currently a lack of guidelines on piRNA bioinformatics analysis, which could lead to inconsistent results and thus hinder the progression of piRNA discoveries. Lastly, the lack of published scientific evidence on the role of EV-piRNA supports the need for future research to focus on the functional analysis of EV-piRNA as part of the route in piRNA discoveries.