Exosomes and exosomal miRNAs from muscle-derived fibroblasts promote skeletal muscle fibrosis

Publication date: Available online 5 July 2018
Source:Matrix Biology
Author(s): Simona Zanotti, Sara Gibertini, Flavia Blasevich, Cinzia Bragato, Alessandra Ruggieri, Simona Saredi, Marco Fabbri, Pia Bernasconi, Lorenzo Maggi, Renato Mantegazza, Marina Mora
Exosomes, natural carriers of mRNAs, non-coding RNAs and proteins between donor and recipient cells, actively contribute to cell-cell communication. We investigated the potential pro-fibrotic role of exosomes released by muscle-derived fibroblasts of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients, and of miRNAs carried by exosomes. By fibrosis focused array analysis we found that exosomes from DMD fibroblasts, had significantly higher levels of miR-199a-5p, a miRNA up-regulated in fibrotic conditions, compared to control exosomes, while levels in myoblast-derived exosomes were not increased. In control fibroblasts, exposure to DMD fibroblast-derived exosomes induced a myofibroblastic phenotype with increase in α-smooth actin, collagen and fibronectin transcript and protein expression, soluble collagen production and deposition, cell proliferation, and activation of Akt and ERK signaling, while exposure to control exosomes did not. Transfecting control fibroblasts or loading control exosomes with miR-199a-5p mimic or inhibitor induced opposing effects on fibrosis-related mRNAs and proteins, on collagen production and Akt and ERK pathways. Finally, injection of DMD fibroblast-derived exosomes into mouse tibialis anterior muscle after cardiotoxin-induced necrosis, produced greater fibrosis than control exosomes.Our findings indicate that exosomes produced by local fibroblasts in the DMD muscle are able to induce phenotypic conversion of normal fibroblasts to myofibroblasts thereby increasing the fibrotic response. This conversion is related to transfer of high levels of miR-199a-5p and to reduction of its target caveolin-1; both, therefore, are potential therapeutic targets in muscle fibrosis.