Cell Biology

A Message in a Vesicle

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Science  18 Dec 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5960, pp. 1590
DOI: 10.1126/science.326.5960.1590-b

When cells undergo programmed cell death, small portions of the plasma membrane pinch off and form microvesicles known as apoptotic bodies. Zernecke et al. show that apopototic bodies carry a message from the dying cells to healthy ones that promotes the repair of atherosclerotic lesions. Apoptotic bodies from dying human umbilical vein endothelial cells were taken up by healthy endothelial cells and increased expression of the gene encoding CXCL12, a chemokine that recruits progenitor cells to sites of repair. The active component of the apoptotic bodies was not a protein but the microRNA miR-126, which inhibited the translation of the mRNA encoding an inhibitor of signaling via CXCR4, which is the receptor for CXCL12 and also enhances its expression. In a mouse model of atherosclerosis, administration of apoptotic bodies or miR-126 promoted the production of CXCL12 and reduced the size of lesions in the blood vessels.

Sci. Sig.2, ra81 (2009).

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