Serum-derived exosomes from non-viremic animals previously exposed to the porcine respiratory and reproductive virus contain antigenic viral proteins

PRRSV is the etiological agent of one of the most important swine diseases with a significant economic burden worldwide and limitations in vaccinology. Exosomes are 30-100 nm vesicles of endocytic origin. Remarkably, immunizations with exosomes containing antigens from tumors or pathogens are capable of eliciting protective immune responses, albeit variably, in cancer and infectious diseases. Here we describe the isolation, molecular composition and immunogenicity of serum-derived exosomes from naive animals, from PRRSV viremic animals and from animals previously PRRSV infected but already free of viruses (non viremic). Exosomes were isolated through size exclusion chromatography and characterized by different methodologies. Exosome-enriched fractions from naive and natural infected animals contained classical tetraspanin exosomal markers (CD63 and CD81) and high concentrations of particles in the size-range of exosomes as detected by nanoparticle tracking analysis and cryo-TEM. NanoLC-MS/MS was used to identify viral antigens associated to exosomes. PRRSV-proteins were detected in serum samples from only viremic animals and from animals previously infected already free of viruses (non-viremic), but not in controls. Moreover, immune sera from pigs previously exposed to PRRSV specifically reacted against exosomes purified from non-viremic pig sera in a dose-dependent manner, a reactivity not detected when naive sera was used in the assay. To facilitate future studies, a scaling-up process was implemented. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first molecular characterization of serum-derived exosomes from naive pigs and pigs actively or previously infected with PRRSV. The presence of antigenic viral proteins in serum-derived exosomes free of virus, suggest their use as a novel vaccine approach against PRRSV.

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