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PLoS One. 2009;4(3):e4722. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004722. Epub 2009 Mar 6.

Transfer of microRNAs by embryonic stem cell microvesicles.

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  • 1Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.

Abstract

Microvesicles are plasma membrane-derived vesicles released into the extracellular environment by a variety of cell types. Originally characterized from platelets, microvesicles are a normal constituent of human plasma, where they play an important role in maintaining hematostasis. Microvesicles have been shown to transfer proteins and RNA from cell to cell and they are also believed to play a role in intercellular communication. We characterized the RNA and protein content of embryonic stem cell microvesicles and show that they can be engineered to carry exogenously expressed mRNA and protein such as green fluorescent protein (GFP). We demonstrate that these engineered microvesicles dock and fuse with other embryonic stem cells, transferring their GFP. Additionally, we show that embryonic stem cells microvesicles contain abundant microRNA and that they can transfer a subset of microRNAs to mouse embryonic fibroblasts in vitro. Since microRNAs are short (21-24 nt), naturally occurring RNAs that regulate protein translation, our findings open up the intriguing possibility that stem cells can alter the expression of genes in neighboring cells by transferring microRNAs contained in microvesicles. Embryonic stem cell microvesicles may be useful therapeutic tools for transferring mRNA, microRNAs, protein, and siRNA to cells and may be important mediators of signaling within stem cell niches.

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