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Exosomal Signaling during Hypoxia Mediates Microvascular Endothelial Cell Migration and Vasculogenesis

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068451
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Anatomy And Physiology
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Circulatory Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Metabolism
  • Oxygen Metabolism
  • Developmental Biology
  • Organism Development
  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Cellular Types
  • Stem Cells
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells
  • Endothelial Cells
  • Medicine
  • Obstetrics And Gynecology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Biology
  • Communication
  • Medicine


Vasculogenesis and angiogenesis are critical processes in fetal circulation and placental vasculature development. Placental mesenchymal stem cells (pMSC) are known to release paracrine factors (some of which are contained within exosomes) that promote angiogenesis and cell migration. The aims of this study were: to determine the effects of oxygen tension on the release of exosomes from pMSC; and to establish the effects of pMSC-derived exosomes on the migration and angiogenic tube formation of placental microvascular endothelial cells (hPMEC). pMSC were isolated from placental villi (8–12 weeks of gestation, n = 6) and cultured under an atmosphere of 1%, 3% or 8% O2. Cell-conditioned media were collected and exosomes (exo-pMSC) isolated by differential and buoyant density centrifugation. The dose effect (5–20 µg exosomal protein/ml) of pMSC-derived exosomes on hPMEC migration and tube formation were established using a real-time, live-cell imaging system (Incucyte™). The exosome pellet was resuspended in PBS and protein content was established by mass spectrometry (MS). Protein function and canonical pathways were identified using the PANTHER program and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis, respectively. Exo-pMSC were identified, by electron microscopy, as spherical vesicles, with a typical cup-shape and diameters around of 100 nm and positive for exosome markers: CD63, CD9 and CD81. Under hypoxic conditions (1% and 3% O2) exo-pMSC released increased by 3.3 and 6.7 folds, respectively, when compared to the controls (8% O2; p<0.01). Exo-pMSC increased hPMEC migration by 1.6 fold compared to the control (p<0.05) and increased hPMEC tube formation by 7.2 fold (p<0.05). MS analysis identified 390 different proteins involved in cytoskeleton organization, development, immunomodulatory, and cell-to-cell communication. The data obtained support the hypothesis that pMSC-derived exosomes may contribute to placental vascular adaptation to low oxygen tension under both physiological and pathological conditions.

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