Exosomes are membranous nanovesicles released by most cell types from multi-vesicular endosomes. They are speculated to transfer molecules to neighboring or distant cells and modulate many physiological and pathological procedures. Exosomes released from the gastrointestinal epithelium to the basolateral side have been implicated in antigen presentation. Here, we report that luminal release of exosomes from the biliary and intestinal epithelium is increased following infection by the protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium parvum. Release of exosomes involves activation of TLR4/IKK2 signaling through promoting the SNAP23-associated vesicular exocytotic process. Downregulation of let-7 family miRNAs by activation of TLR4 signaling increases SNAP23 expression, coordinating exosome release in response to C. parvum infection. Intriguingly, exosomes carry antimicrobial peptides of epithelial cell origin, including cathelicidin-37 and beta-defensin 2. Activation of TLR4 signaling enhances exosomal shuttle of epithelial antimicrobial peptides. Exposure of C. parvum sporozoites to released exosomes decreases their viability and infectivity both in vitro and ex vivo. Direct binding to the C. parvum sporozoite surface is required for the anti- C. parvum activity of released exosomes. Biliary epithelial cells also increase exosomal release and display exosome-associated anti- C. parvum activity following LPS stimulation. Our data indicate that TLR4 signaling regulates luminal exosome release and shuttling of antimicrobial peptides from the gastrointestinal epithelium, revealing a new arm of mucosal immunity relevant to antimicrobial defense.
Exosomes are secreted membranous nanovesicles produced by a variety of cells. Exosomes shuttle various molecules to transfer them to neighboring or distant cells, and have been implicated as mediators in cell-cell communications to modulate physiological and pathological procedures. Here, we report that luminal release of exosomal vesicles is an important component of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)-associated gastrointestinal epithelial defense against infection by Cryptosporidium parvum, an obligate intracellular protozoan that infects gastrointestinal epithelial cells. Activation of TLR4 signaling in host epithelial cells following C. parvum infection promotes luminal release of epithelial exosomes and exosomal shuttling of antimicrobial peptides from the epithelium. By direct binding to the C. parvum surface, exosomal vesicles reveal anti- C. parvum activity. Activation of TLR4 signaling in epithelial cells after LPS stimulation also increases exosomal release and exosome-associated anti- C. parvum activity. Therefore, we speculate that TLR4-mediated exosome release may be relevant to innate mucosal immunity in general, representing a new target for therapeutic intervention for infectious diseases at the mucosal surface.