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Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Microvesicles Induce Gene Expression Changes in Müller Cells of the Retina


Cell-derived microvesicles (MVs), recognized as important components of cell-cell communication, contain mRNAs, miRNAs, proteins and lipids and transfer their bioactive contents from parent cells to cells of other origins. We have studied the effect that MVs released from embryonic stem cells (ESMVs) have on retinal progenitor Müller cells. Cultured human Müller cells were exposed to mouse ESMVs every 48 hours for a total of 9 treatments. Morphological changes were observed by light microscopy in the treated cells, which grew as individual heterogeneous cells, compared to the uniform, spindle-like adherent cellular sheets of untreated cells. ESMVs transferred to Müller cells embryonic stem cell (ESC) mRNAs involved in the maintenance of pluripotency, including Oct4 and Sox2, and the miRNAs of the 290 cluster, important regulators of the ESC-specific cell cycle. Moreover, ESMV exposure induced up-regulation of the basal levels of endogenous human Oct4 mRNA in Müller cells. mRNA and miRNA microarrays of ESMV-treated vs. untreated Müller cells revealed the up-regulation of genes and miRNAs involved in the induction of pluripotency, cellular proliferation, early ocular genes and genes important for retinal protection and remodeling, as well as the down-regulation of inhibitory and scar-related genes and miRNAs involved in differentiation and cell cycle arrest. To further characterize the heterogeneous cell population of ESMV-treated Müller cells, their expression of retinal cell markers was compared to that in untreated control cells by immunocytochemistry. Markers for amacrine, ganglion and rod photoreceptors were present in treated but not in control Müller cells. Together, our findings indicate that ESMs induce de-differentiation and pluripotency in their target Müller cells, which may turn on an early retinogenic program of differentiation.

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