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Papers of the Week

Papers: 8 Apr 2023 - 14 Apr 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology, Sex Differences

Neuropathic Pain

2023 Apr 10

J Pain


Small extracellular vesicles from spared nerve injury model and sham control mice differentially regulate gene expression in primary microglia.


Luo X, Jean-Toussaint R, Tian Y, Balashov SV, Sacan A, Ajit SK


Nerve injury outcomes might be predicted by examining small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) in circulation, as their biomolecular cargo facilitates cellular communication and can alter transcriptional state and behavior of recipient cells. We found that sEVs from the serum of spared nerve injury (SNI) model male mice had seven differentially expressed miRNAs compared to sEVs from sham-operated control mice four weeks post-surgery. We investigated how these sEVs alter transcription in primary cortical microglia, a crucial mediator of neuropathic pain, using RNA sequencing. While the uptake of sEVs from both SNI model and sham groups changed gene expression in microglia compared to PBS treatment, sEVs from the sham group induced a more drastic change, particularly in genes involved in immune response. This was recapitulated by increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in microglia incubated with sEVs from sham control compared to sEVs from SNI model, naïve mice, or PBS. However, treating microglia with sEVs from female mice showed that serum sEVs derived from female SNI mice but not from female sham mice induced a more pronounced microglial secretion of pro-inflammatory mediators. Our data demonstrate that the molecular changes induced by sham surgery injuring skin and muscles are reflected in circulating sEVs in male mice four weeks later. Thus, when using sEVs from sham mice as control in comparative mechanistic studies after nerve injury, sex of mice should be taken into consideration. PERSPECTIVE: Microglial uptake of sEVs from male sham control mice induce higher pro-inflammatory responses compared to SNI sEVs but the reverse was observed upon treatment with sEVs from female mice. Wound healing may have a long-term impact on sEVs in male mice and should be considered for comparative studies using sEVs.