Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a severe cardiopulmonary disease characterized by complement-dependent, fibroblast-induced perivascular accumulation and proinflammatory activation of macrophages. We hypothesized that, in PH, nanoscale-sized small extracellular vesicles (sEVs), released by perivascular/adventitial fibroblasts, are critical mediators of complement-dependent proinflammatory activation of macrophages. Pulmonary adventitial fibroblasts were isolated from calves with severe PH (PH-Fibs) and age-matched controls (CO-Fibs). PH-Fibs exhibited increased secretion of sEVs, compared with CO-Fibs, and sEV biological activity was tested on mouse and bovine bone marrow–derived macrophages (BMDMs) and showed similar responses. Compared with sEVs derived from CO-Fibs, sEVs derived from PH-Fibs (PH-Fib-sEVs) induced augmented expression of proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines and metabolic genes in BMDMs. Pharmacological blockade of exosome release from PH-Fibs resulted in significant attenuation of proinflammatory activation of BMDMs. “Bottom-up” proteomic analyses revealed significant enrichment of complement and coagulation cascades in PH-Fib-sEVs, including augmented expression of the complement component C3. We therefore examined whether the PH-Fib-sEV–mediated proinflammatory activation of BMDMs was complement C3 dependent. Treatment of PH-Fibs with siC3-RNA significantly attenuated the capacity of PH-Fib-sEVs for proinflammatory activation of BMDMs. PH-Fib-sEVs mediated proglycolytic alterations and complement-dependent activation of macrophages toward a proinflammatory phenotype, as confirmed by metabolomic studies. Thus, fibroblast-released sEVs served as critical mediators of complement-induced perivascular/microenvironmental inflammation in PH.


Sushil Kumar, Maria G. Frid, Hui Zhang, Min Li, Suzette Riddle, R. Dale Brown, Subhash Chandra Yadav, Micaela K. Roy, Monika E. Dzieciatkowska, Angelo D’Alessandro, Kirk C. Hansen, Kurt R. Stenmark


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