Exosomes, a type of nanovesicle released from all cell types, can be isolated from any bodily fluid. The contents of exosomes, including proteins and RNAs, are unique to the cells from which they are derived and can be used as indicators of disease. Several common enrichment protocols, including ultracentrifugation, yield exosomes laden with soluble protein contaminants. Specifically, we have found that the most abundant proteins within blood often co-purify with exosomes and can confound downstream proteomic studies, thwarting the identification of low abundance biomarker candidates. Of additional concern is irreproducibility of exosome protein quantification due to inconsistent representation of non-exosomal protein levels. The protocol detailed here was developed to remove non-exosomal proteins that co-purify along with exosomes, adding rigor to the exosome purification process. Five methods were compared using paired blood plasma and serum from five donors. Analysis using nanoparticle tracking analysis and micro bicinchoninic acid protein assay revealed that a combined protocol utilizing ultrafiltration and size exclusion chromatography yielded the optimal vesicle enrichment and soluble protein removal. Western blotting was used to verify that the expected abundant blood proteins, including albumin and apolipoproteins, were depleted.
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