Environmental pollutant induced cellular injury is reflected in exosomes from placental explants

Samantha Sheller-Miller, Enkhtuya Radnaa, Yuko Arita, Darios Getahun, Richard J. Jones, Morgan R. Peltier, Ramkumar Menon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Introduction: Exosomes are intercellular signaling vesicles whose cargo reflects the physiological status of the cell of their origin and can regulate gene expression in other tissues. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and bisphenols (A [BPA], Tetrabromobisphenol A [TBBPA], and 2,4,6-Tribromophenol [TBP]) are common environmental pollutants known to increase the risk for spontaneous preterm birth (PTB). We hypothesized that placental exposure to these environmental pollutants causes exosome cargo changes that reflect exposure associated placental response. Methods: Full-term, C-section placenta explants were treated with PBDE congeners (47, 100, 153, 209), TBBPA, TBP or BPA for 24 h. Exosomes were isolated from media by sequential ultracentrifugation and purified by size exclusion chromatography. Exosomes were characterized by electron microscopy, nanoparticle tracking analysis and Western blot. Proteomics identified differentially expressed exosomal proteins and Ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA) determined biological functions and pathways represented by identified proteins. Results: Regardless of treatment, placental expressed exosomes markers (PLAP, CD9, CD63, 81 and ALIX), had a size distribution between 50 and 175 nm and were present in the conditioned medium at 5–8 x 1011 exosomes/mL. Proteomic analysis identified 2598 proteins which demonstrated that specific pollutants caused differential expression of specific proteins, including alarmin, High Mobility Group Box 1 (HMGB1), MAPK14 (p38 MAPK) and GSK3β. IPA revealed an inhibition of pathways associated with cell survival, tissue repair and proliferation, as well as activation of cell death pathways (e.g. necrosis). Conclusion: Environmental exposure of placental explants did not change the quantity of exosomes or their characteristics. However, exosome cargo composition exposed to some environment pollutants may be involved in placental nuclear and cellular injury and inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-49
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Flame retardants
  • Inflammation
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Preterm birth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology


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