Key Points

  • Platelet-derived extracellular vesicles contain an active proteasome

  • Platelet-derived extracellular vesicles can process and present antigen

In addition to their hemostatic role, platelets play a significant role in immunity. Once activated, platelets release extracellular vesicles (EVs) formed by budding of their cytoplasmic membranes. Because of their heterogeneity, platelet EVs (PEVs) are thought to perform diverse functions. It is unknown, however, whether the proteasome is transferred from platelets to PEVs or whether its function is retained. We hypothesized that functional protein processing and antigen presentation machinery is transferred to PEVs by activated platelets. Using molecular and functional assays, we show that the active 20S proteasome is enriched in PEVs along with MHC-I and lymphocyte costimulatory molecules (CD40L and OX40L). Proteasome-containing PEVs were identified in healthy donor blood, but did not increase in platelet concentrates that caused adverse transfusion reactions. They were, however, augmented after immune complex injections in mice. The complete biodistribution of murine PEVs following injection into mice revealed that they could principally reach lymphoid organs such as spleen and lymph nodes, in addition to the bone marrow, and to a lesser extent liver and lungs. The PEV proteasome processed exogenous ovalbumin (OVA) and loaded its antigenic peptide onto MHC-I molecules which promoted OVA-specific CD8+ T lymphocyte proliferation. These results suggest that PEVs contribute to adaptive immunity through cross-presentation of antigens and have privileged access to immune cells through the lymphatic system, a tissue location that is inaccessible to platelets.

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