Ribonucleic artefacts: are some extracellular RNA discoveries driven by cell culture medium components?

Juan Pablo Tosar, Alfonso Cayota, Erez Eitan, Marc K. Halushka, Kenneth W. Witwer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In a recently published study, Anna Krichevsky and colleagues raise the important question of whether results of in vitro extracellular RNA (exRNA) studies, including extracellular vesicle (EV) investigations, are confounded by the presence of RNA in cell culture medium components such as foetal bovine serum (FBS). The answer, according to their data, is a resounding “yes”. Even after lengthy ultracentrifugation to remove bovine EVs from FBS, the majority of exRNA in FBS remained. Although technical factors may affect the degree of depletion, residual EVs and exRNA in FBS could influence the conclusions of in vitro studies: certainly, for secreted RNA, and possibly also for cell-associated RNA. In this commentary, we critically examine some of the literature in this field, including a recent study from some of the authors of this piece, in light of the Wei et al. study and explore how cell culture-derived RNAs may affect what we think we know about EV RNAs. These findings hold particular consequence as the field moves towards a deeper understanding of EV–RNA associations and potential functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1272832
JournalJournal of Extracellular Vesicles
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • RNA
  • artefact
  • cell culture
  • contamination
  • exosomes
  • extracellular vesicles
  • microRNA
  • microvesicles
  • serum
  • ultracentrifugation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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