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FRET-Based Assay for the Quantification of Extracellular Vesicles and Other Vesicles of Complex Composition

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journal contribution
posted on 12.11.2020, 16:13 by Konrad Thorsteinsson, Erik Olsén, Eneas Schmidt, Hudson Pace, Marta Bally
Research in the field of extracellular vesicles is rapidly expanding and finding footholds in many areas of medical science. However, the availability of methodologies to quantify the concentration of membrane material present in a sample remains limited. Herein, we present a novel approach for the quantification of vesicle material, specifically the quantification of the total lipid membrane surface area, found in a sample using Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET). In this assay, sonication is used to drive the fusion between vesicles in the sample to be quantified and liposomes containing a pair of FRET fluorophores. The change in emission spectrum upon vesicle fusion is directly related to the total membrane surface area of the sample added, and a calibration curve allows for the quantification of a variety of vesicle species, including enveloped viruses, bacterial outer membrane vesicles, and mammalian extracellular vesicles. Without extensive optimization of experimental parameters, we were able to quantify down to ∼109 vesicles/mL, using as little as 60 μL of the sample. The assay precision was comparable to that of a commercial nanoparticle tracking analysis system. While its limit of detection was slightly higher, the FRET assay is superior for the detection of small vesicles, as its performance is vesicle-size-independent. Taken together, the FRET assay is a simple, robust, and versatile method for the quantification of a variety of purified vesicle samples.

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