Exosomes released from Shiga toxin 2a-treated human macrophages modulate inflammatory responses and induce cell death in toxin receptor expressing human cells. Academic Article uri icon


  • Shiga toxins (Stxs) produced by Stx-producing Escherichia coli are the primarily virulence factors of hemolytic uremic syndrome and central nervous system (CNS) impairment. Although the precise mechanisms of toxin dissemination remain unclear, Stxs bind to extracellular vesicles (EVs). Exosomes, a subset of EVs, may play a key role in Stx-mediated renal injury. To test this hypothesis, we isolated exosomes from monocyte-derived macrophages in the presence of Stx2a or Stx2 toxoids. Macrophage-like differentiated THP-1 cells treated with Stxs secreted Stx-associated exosomes (Stx-Exo) of 90-130nm in diameter, which induced cytotoxicity in recipient cells in a toxin receptor globotriaosylceramide (Gb3 )-dependent manner. Stx2-Exo engulfed by Gb3 -positive cells were translocated to the endoplasmic reticulum in the human proximal tubule epithelial cell line HK-2. Stx2-Exo contained pro-inflammatory cytokine mRNAs and proteins and induced more severe inflammation than purified Stx2a accompanied by greater death of target cells such as human renal or retinal pigment epithelial cells. Blockade of exosome biogenesis using the pharmacological inhibitor GW4869 reduced Stx2-Exo-mediated human renal cell death. Stx2-Exo isolated from human primary monocyte-derived macrophages activated caspase 3/7 and resulted in significant cell death in primary human renal cortical epithelial cells. Based on these results, we speculate that Stx-containing exosomes derived from macrophages may exacerbate cytotoxicity and inflammation and trigger cell death in toxin-sensitive cells. Therapeutic interventions targeting Stx-containing exosomes may prevent or ameliorate Stx-mediated acute vascular dysfunction.

published proceedings

  • Cell Microbiol

altmetric score

  • 5.7

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, K., Lee, J., Lee, P., Kim, C., Kim, D., Jeong, Y., ... Lee, M.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Lee, Kyung-Soo||Lee, Jieun||Lee, Pureum||Kim, Chang-Ung||Kim, Doo-Jin||Jeong, Yu-Jin||Park, Young-Jun||Tesh, Vernon L||Lee, Moo-Seung

publication date

  • January 2020