FIB-SEM tomography of human skin telocytes and their extracellular vesicles

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We have shown in 2012 the existence of telocytes (TCs) in human dermis. TCs were described by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) as interstitial cells located in non-epithelial spaces (stroma) of many organs (see TCs have very long prolongations (tens to hundreds micrometers) named Telopodes (Tps). These Tps have a special conformation with dilated portions named podoms (containing mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum and caveolae) and very thin segments (below resolving power of light microscopy), called podomers. To show the real 3D architecture of TC network, we used the most advanced available electron microscope technology: focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) tomography. Generally, 3D reconstruction of dermal TCs by FIB-SEM tomography revealed the existence of Tps with various conformations: (i) long, flattened irregular veils (ribbon-like segments) with knobs, corresponding to podoms, and (ii) tubular structures (podomers) with uneven calibre because of irregular dilations (knobs) – the podoms. FIB-SEM tomography also showed numerous extracellular vesicles (diameter 438.6 ± 149.1 nm, n = 30) released by a human dermal TC. Our data might be useful for understanding the role(s) of TCs in intercellular signalling and communication, as well as for comprehension of pathologies like scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, etc.

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