Extracellular vesicles stimulate smooth muscle cell migration by presenting collagen VI

  1. School of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine & Sciences, James Black Centre, King’s College London, 125 Coldharbour Lane, London, SE5 9NU, UK, Tel. 020 7848 5221, FAX 020 7848 5193
  2. Wohl Cellular Imaging Centre, King’s College London, 5 Cutcombe Road, London, SE5 9NU
  3. Laboratory for Molecular, Translational and Digital Medicine, Research Institute for Complex Issues of Cardiovascular Diseases, 6 Sosnovy Boulevard, Kemerovo, 650002, Russian Federation
  4. Laboratory of Morphogenesis and Tissue Reparation, Faculty of Medicine, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Lomonosovsky av. 27-1, Moscow, 119991, Russia, tel/fax +74959329904
  5. Tissue Microenvironment Research Group, Division of Cancer & Genetics, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Tenovus Building, Cardiff, UK, CF14 2XN
  6. Division of Cell Biology, Neurobiology & Biophysics, Utrecht University, Padualaan 8, 3584 CH, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  7. Amsterdam UMC, Location Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Pathology, Cancer Center Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1117, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  8. Randall Centre for Cell and Molecular Biophysics, School of Basic and Medical Biosciences, King’s College London, New Hunt’s House, Guy’s Campus, London, SE1 1UL UK
  9. Laboratory of Regenerative Biomedicine, Institute of Cytology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 4 Tikhoretskiy Prospekt, 194064, St. Petersburg, Russia
  10. Centre for Molecular and Cell Technologies, Research Park, St. Petersburg State University, 7/9 Universitetskaya Embankment, 199034, St. Petersburg, Russia
  11. Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, School of Mathematics and Centre of Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE), University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
  12. Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA
  13. School of Pharmacy, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, Norfolk, UK, NR4 7TJ
  14. Wellcome Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, Faculty of Biology, Medicine & Health, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, University of Manchester, Michael Smith Building, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PT, United Kingdom
  15. School of Engineering and Materials Science, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Queen Mary University of London, Engineering Building, Mile End Road, E1 4NS


  • Reviewing Editor
    Jonathan Cooper
    Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, United States of America
  • Senior Editor
    Jonathan Cooper
    Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, United States of America

Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

Summary. In this investigation Kapustin et al. demonstrate that vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) exposed to the extracellular matrix fibronectin stimulates the release of small extracellular vesicles (sEVs). The authors provide experimental evidence that stimulation of the actin cytoskeleton boosts sEV secretion and posit that sEVs harbor both fibronectin and collagen IV protein themselves which also, in turn, alter cell migration parameters. It is well established that fibronectin is associated with increased cell migration and adherence; therefore, this association with VSMCs is not novel. The authors purport that sEV are largely born of filopodia origin; however, this data is not well executed and seems generally at odds with the presented data. Similarly, the effect of sEVs on parameters of cell migration has almost no magnitude of effect, making mechanism exploration somewhat nebulous. Lastly, the proposed mechanism of VSMCs responding to, and depositing, ECM proteins via sEVs was not rigorously executed; again, making the conclusions challenging for the reader to interpret.

Strengths. The authors provide a comprehensive battery of cytoskeletal experiments to test how fibronectin and sEVs impact both sEV release and vascular smooth muscle cell migratory activation.

Weaknesses. Unfortunately, this article suffers from many weaknesses. First, the rigor of the experimental approach is low, which calls into question the merit of the conclusions. In this vein, there is a lack of proper controls or inclusion of experiments addressing alternative explanations for the phenotype or lack thereof.

Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

Extracellular vesicles have recently gained significant attention across a wide variety of fields, and they have therefore been implicated in numerous physiological and pathophysiological processes. When such a discovery and an explosion of interest occur in science, there is often much excitement and hope for answers to mechanisms that have remained elusive and poorly understood. Unfortunately, there is an equal amount of hype and overstatement that may also be put forth in the name of "impact", but this temptation must be avoided so that scientists and the broader public are not misled by overreaching interpretations and statements that lack rigorous and fully convincing evidence.

The study presented by Kapustin et al. is certainly intriguing and timely, and it offers an interesting working hypothesis for the fields of extracellular vesicles and vascular biology to consider. The authors do a reasonable job at detecting these small extracellular vesicles, though some aspects of data presentation are missing such as full Western blots with accompanying size markers for the viewer to more fully appreciate that data and comparisons being made (see Figures 1 and 7).

Much of the imaging data from cell-based experiments is strong and conducted with many cutting-edge tools and approaches. That said, the static images and the dynamic imaging fall short of being fully convincing that the small extracellular vesicles found in the neighboring extracellular matrix are indeed being deposited there via the smooth muscle cell filopodia. Many of the lines of evidence presented suggest that this could occur, but alternative hypotheses also exist that were not fully ruled out, such as the ECM-deposited vesicles were secreted more from the soma and/or the lamellipodia that are also emitted and retracted from the cells. In particular, the authors show very nice dynamic imaging (Supplementary Figure S2A and Supplemental Video S1) that is interpreted as "extracellular vesicles being released from the cell" and these are seen as "bursts" of fluorescent signal; however, none of these appear to occur in filopodia as they appear within the cell proper (a "burst" of signal vs. a more intense "streak" of signal), which would be a stronger and more consistent observation predicted by the working model proposed by the authors.

Imaging of related human samples is certainly a strength of the paper, and the authors are commended for attempting to connect the findings from their cell culture experiments to an important clinical scenario. However, the marker selected for marking extracellular vesicles is CD81, which has been described as present on the endothelium of atherosclerotic plaques with a proposed role in the recruitment of monocytes into diseased arteries (Rohlena et al. Cardiovasc Res 2009). More data should address this potentially confounding interpretation of the signals presented in images within Figure 4.

On a conceptual level, the idea that the small extracellular vesicles contain Type VI Collagen, and this element of their cargo is modulating smooth muscle cell migration, is an intriguing aspect of the authors' working model. Nevertheless, the evidence supporting this potential mechanism does not quite fit together as presented. It is not entirely clear how the collagen VI within the vesicles is somehow accessed by the smooth muscle cell filopodia during migration. Are the vesicles lysed open once on the extracellular matrix? If so, what is the proposed mechanism for that to occur? If not, how are the adhesion molecules on the smooth muscle cell surface engaging the collagen VI fibers that are contained within the vesicles? This aspect of the model does not quite fit together with the proposed mechanism and may be an interesting speculative interpretation, warranting further investigation, but it should not be considered a strong conclusion with sufficient convincing data supporting this idea.

On a technical level, some of the statistical analysis is not readily understood from the data presented. It is very much appreciated that the authors show many of the graphs with technical and biological replicate values in addition to the means and standard deviations (though this is not clearly stated in all figure legends). However, in figures such as Figure 5, there are bars shown and indicated to be different by statistical comparison (see panel B in Figure 5). It is not clear how the values for Group 1 (no FN, no 3-OMS, no sEV) are statistically different (denoted by three asterisks but no p value provided in the legend) than Group 3 (no FN, 3-OMS added, no sEV), when their means and standard deviations appear almost identical. If this is an oversight, this needs to be corrected. If this is truly the outcome, further explanation is warranted. A higher level of transparency in such instances would certainly go a long way in helping address the current crisis of mistrust within the scientific community and at the interface with society at-large.

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. Wellcome Trust
  3. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  4. Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation