Endothelial colony-forming cell-derived exosomes restore blood-brain barrier continuity in mice subjected to traumatic brain injury

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) tends to cause disruption of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Previous studies have shown that intravenously or intracerebroventricularly infused human umbilical cord blood-derived endothelial colony-forming cells (ECFCs) can home to injury sites and improve outcomes in mice subjected to experimental TBI. Several reports have demonstrated that these cells did not incorporate directly into newly formed vasculature but instead stimulated the proliferation and migration of tissue-resident endothelial cells (ECs) via paracrine mechanisms. In the present study, exosomes, which range from 30 to 150 nm in diameter, were isolated from ECFC-conditioned medium. The exosomes were labeled with PKH67 ex vivo, and we observed that they were taken up by ECs with high efficiency after 12 h of incubation. Pretreatment with ECFC-derived exosomes promoted the migration of ECs subjected to scratch injury, and incubating ECs exposed to hypoxia with ECFC-derived exosomes decreased PTEN expression, stimulated AKT phosphorylation and increased tight junction (TJ) protein expression in the cells. Furthermore, in vivo delivery of ECFC-derived exosomes into TBI mice also inhibited PTEN expression and increased AKT expression, changes accompanied by reductions in Evans blue (EB) dye extravasation, brain edema and TJ degradation. These data demonstrated that ECFC-derived exosomes have beneficial effects on BBB integrity in mice with TBI.HighlightsECFC-exosomes labeled with PKH67 could be internalized by endothelial cells with high efficiency after 12 h of incubation.Pretreatment with ECFC-derived exosomes attenuated the degradation of the tight junction proteins of endothelial cells.Transfer of exosomes into TBI mice alleviated the disruption of blood-brain barriers, EB extravasation and brain edema.

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