Ultrafiltration combined with size exclusion chromatography efficiently isolates extracellular vesicles from cell culture media for compositional and functional studies

Birke J. Benedikter, Freek G. Bouwman, Tanja Vajen, Alexandra C. A. Heinzmann, Gert Grauls, Edwin C. Mariman, Emiel F. M. Wouters, Paul H. Savelkoul, Carmen Lopez-Iglesias, Rory R. Koenen, Gernot G. U. Rohde, Frank R. M. Stassen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

131 Citations (Web of Science)


Appropriate isolation methods are essential for unravelling the relative contribution of extracellular vesicles (EVs) and the EV-free secretome to homeostasis and disease. We hypothesized that ultrafiltration followed by size exclusion chromatography (UF-SEC) provides well-matched concentrates of EVs and free secreted molecules for proteomic and functional studies. Conditioned media of BEAS-2B bronchial epithelial cells were concentrated on 10 kDa centrifuge filters, followed by separation of EVs and free protein using sepharose CL-4B SEC. Alternatively, EVs were isolated by ultracentrifugation. EV recovery was estimated by bead-coupled flow cytometry and tuneable resistive pulse sensing. The proteomic composition of EV isolates and SEC protein fractions was characterized by nano LC-MS/MS. UF-SEC EVs tended to have a higher yield and EV-to-protein rate of purity than ultracentrifugation EVs. UF-SEC EVs and ultracentrifugation EVs showed similar fold-enrichments for biological pathways that were distinct from those of UF-SEC protein. Treatment of BEAS-2B cells with UF-SEC protein, but not with either type of EV isolate increased the IL-8 concentration in the media whereas EVs, but not protein induced monocyte adhesion to endothelial cells. Thus, UF-SEC is a useful alternative for ultracentrifugation and allows comparing the proteomic composition and functional effects of EVs and free secreted molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15297
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2017



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