Asymmetric-flow field-flow fractionation technology for exomere and small extracellular vesicle separation and characterization.

Author(s): Zhang H,  Lyden D

Journal: Nat Protoc

Date: 2019 Apr

Major Program(s) or Research Group(s): PARR

PubMed ID: 30833697

PMC ID: not available

Abstract: We describe the protocol development and optimization of asymmetric-flow field-flow fractionation (AF4) technology for separating and characterizing extracellular nanoparticles (ENPs), particularly small extracellular vesicles (sEVs), known as exosomes, and even smaller novel nanoparticles, known as exomeres. This technique fractionates ENPs on the basis of hydrodynamic size and demonstrates a unique capability to separate nanoparticles with sizes ranging from a few nanometers to an undefined level of micrometers. ENPs are resolved by two perpendicular flows-channel flow and cross-flow-in a thin, flat channel with a semi-permissive bottom wall membrane. The AF4 separation method offers several advantages over other isolation methods for ENP analysis, including being label-free, gentle, rapid (<1 h) and highly reproducible, as well as providing efficient recovery of analytes. Most importantly, in contrast to other available techniques, AF4 can separate ENPs at high resolution (1 nm) and provide a large dynamic range of size-based separation. In conjunction with real-time monitors, such as UV absorbance and dynamic light scattering (DLS), and an array of post-separation characterizations, AF4 facilitates the successful separation of distinct subsets of exosomes and the identification of exomeres. Although the whole procedure of cell culture and ENP isolation from the conditioned medium by ultracentrifugation (UC) can take ~3 d, the AF4 fractionation step takes only 1 h. Users of this technology will require expertise in the working principle of AF4 to operate and customize protocol applications. AF4 can contribute to the development of high-quality, exosome- and exomere-based molecular diagnostics and therapeutics.