Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 10 - 2020

Jonathan Z. Long, Pathology
Monther Abu-Remaileh, Chemical Engineering

Intercellular signaling is a key aspect of all multicellular organisms in order to maintain proper coordination between distant cells in the body. Classically, this intercellular signaling is mediated by hormones secreted by one type of cell that act on receptors expressed by distant cells. In recent years, a new form of non-hormone, vesicle-based signaling has been uncovered. This intercellular signaling is mediated by exosomes, a class of membrane-bound extracellular vesicles. Exosomes are secreted by nearly all types of cells, are found in blood plasma, and can be taken up by distant cells to affect gene expression and other cellular processes. However, critical aspects of exosome-mediated communication are still mysterious. First, do different cell types secrete different types of exosomes with distinct contents in vivo? Second, what are the destinations of exosomes secreted from any given cell type? To address these questions, we will develop novel tools that will allow us to rapidly isolate exosomes secreted by specific cell types directly from complex fluids such as blood plasma. These tools will also enable us to decode the message carried by exosomes. Successful completion of our goals will uncover fundamental biochemical aspects of this still mysterious vesicle-mediated intercellular communication processes during both health and disease.