Small extracellular vesicles of hypoxic endothelial cells regulate the therapeutic potential of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells via miR-486-5p/PTEN in a limb ischemia model

J Nanobiotechnology. 2022 Sep 24;20(1):422. doi: 10.1186/s12951-022-01632-1.


Background: Patients with critical limb ischemia (CLI) are at great risk of major amputation and cardiovascular events. Adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cell (ADSC) therapy is a promising therapeutic strategy for CLI, but the poor engraftment and insufficient angiogenic ability of ADSCs limit their regenerative potential. Herein, we explored the potential of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs)-derived small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) for enhancing the therapeutic efficacy of ADSCs in CLI.

Results: sEVs derived from hypoxic HUVECs enhanced the resistance of ADSCs to reactive oxygen species (ROS) and further improved the proangiogenic ability of ADSCs in vitro. We found that the hypoxic environment altered the composition of sEVs from HUVECs and that hypoxia increased the level of miR-486-5p in sEVs. Compared to normoxic sEVs (nsEVs), hypoxic sEVs (hsEVs) of HUVECs significantly downregulated the phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) via direct targeting of miR-486-5p, therefore activating the AKT/MTOR/HIF-1α pathway and influencing the survival and pro-angiogenesis ability of ADSCs. In a hindlimb ischemia model, we discovered that hsEVs-primed ADSCs exhibited superior cell engraftment, and resulted in better angiogenesis and tissue repair.

Conclusion: hsEVs could be used as a therapeutic booster to improve the curative potential of ADSCs in a limb ischemia model. This finding offers new insight for CLI treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Extracellular Vesicles* / metabolism
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Ischemia / metabolism
  • Ischemia / therapy
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Tensins / metabolism


  • MIRN486 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Tensins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • PTEN protein, human