Circulating exosomes from brain death and cardiac death donors have distinct molecular and immunologic properties: A pilot study

Ranjithkumar Ravichandran, Yoshihiro Itabashi, Fangyu Zhou, Yiing Lin, Thalachallour Mohanakumar, William C. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background and aims: Comparison of donation after brain death (DBD) and donation after cardiac death (DCD) lung tissue before transplantation have demonstrated activation of pro-inflammatory cytokine pathway in DBD donors. The molecular and immunological properties of circulating exosomes from DBD and DCD donors were not previously described. Methods: : We collected plasma from 18 deceased donors (12 DBD and six DCD). Cytokines were analyzed by 30-Plex luminex Panels. Exosomes were analyzed for liver self-antigen (SAg), Transcription Factors and HLA class II (HLA-DR/DQ) using western blot. C57BL/6 animals were immunized with isolated exosomes to determine strength and magnitude of immune responses. Interferon (IFN)-γ and tumor necrosis factor-α producing cells were quantified by ELISPOT, specific antibodies to HLA class II antigens were measured by ELISA. Results: We demonstrate increased plasma levels of IFNγ, EGF, EOTAXIN, IP-10, MCP-1, RANTES, MIP-β, VEGF, and interleukins – 6/8 in DBD plasma versus DCD. MiRNA isolated from exosome of DBD donors demonstrated significant increase in miR-421, which has been reported to correlate with higher level of Interleukin-6. Higher levels of liver SAg Collagen III (p =.008), pro-inflammatory transcription factors (NF-κB, p <.05; HIF1α, p =.021), CIITA (p =.011), and HLA class II (HLA-DR, p =.0003 and HLA-DQ, p =.013) were detected in exosomes from DBD versus DCD plasma. The circulating exosomes isolated from DBD donors were immunogenic in mice and led to the development of Abs to HLA-DR/DQ. Conclusions: This study provides potential new mechanisms by which DBD organs release exosomes that can activate immune pathways leading to cytokine release and allo-immune response.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere15067
JournalClinical Transplantation
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • HLA class II
  • cytokines
  • donation after brain death
  • donation after cardiac death
  • exosomes
  • interleukin-6
  • micro RNA


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