Biosynthesized Multivalent Lacritin Peptides Stimulate Exosome Production in Human Corneal Epithelium

Lacripep is a therapeutic peptide derived from the human tear protein, Lacritin. Lacripep interacts with syndecan-1 and induces mitogenesis upon the removal of heparan sulfates (HS) that are attached at the extracellular domain of syndecan-1. The presence of HS is a prerequisite for the syndecan-1 clustering that stimulates exosome biogenesis and release. Therefore, syndecan-1-mediated mitogenesis versus HS-mediated exosome biogenesis are assumed to be mutually exclusive. This study introduces a biosynthesized fusion between Lacripep and an elastin-like polypeptide named LP-A96, and evaluates its activity on cell motility enhancement versus exosome biogenesis. LP-A96 activates both downstream pathways in a dose-dependent manner. HCE-T cells at high confluence treated with 1 μM LP-A96 enhanced cell motility equipotent to Lacripep. However, cells at low density treated with 1 μM LP-A96 generated a 210-fold higher number of exosomes compared to those treated at low density with Lacripep. As monovalent Lacripep is capable of enhancing cell motility but not exosome biogenesis, activation of exosome biogenesis by LP-A96 not only suggests its utility as a novel molecular tool to study the Lacritin biology in the corneal epithelium but also implies activity as a potential therapeutic peptide that can further improve ocular surface health through the induction of exosomes.