Background: Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is a major complication of diabetes and the main cause of end-stage renal disease. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are small cell-derived vesicles that can alter disease progression by microRNA (miRNA) transfer.
Methods: In this study, we aimed to characterize the cellular origin and miRNA content of EVs in plasma samples of type 2 diabetes patients at various stages of DN. Type 2 diabetes patients were classified in three groups: normoalbuminuria, microalbuminuria and macroalbuminuria. The concentration and cellular origin of plasma EVs were measured by flow cytometry. A total of 752 EV miRNAs were profiled in 18 subjects and differentially expressed miRNAs were validated.
Results: Diabetic patients with microalbuminuria and/or macroalbuminuria showed elevated concentrations of total EVs and EVs from endothelial cells, platelets, leucocytes and erythrocytes compared with diabetic controls. miR-99a-5p was upregulated in macroalbuminuric patients compared with normoalbuminuric and microalbuminuric patients. Transfection of miR-99a-5p in cultured human podocytes downregulated mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) protein expression and downregulated the podocyte injury marker vimentin.
Conclusions: Type 2 diabetes patients with microalbuminuria and macroalbuminuria display differential EV profiles. miR-99a-5p expression is elevated in EVs from macroalbuminuria and mTOR is its validated mRNA target.