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The cytokine interleukin 6 (IL6) is a key mediator of inflammation that contributes to skeletal muscle pathophysiology. IL6 activates target cells by two main mechanisms, the classical and trans-signalling pathways. While classical signalling is associated with the anti-inflammatory activities of the cytokine, the IL6 trans-signalling pathway mediates chronic inflammation and is therefore a target for therapeutic intervention. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are natural, lipid-bound nanoparticles, with potential as targeted delivery vehicles for therapeutic macromolecules. Here, we engineered EVs to express IL6 signal transducer (IL6ST) decoy receptors to selectively inhibit the IL6 trans-signalling pathway. The potency of the IL6ST decoy receptor EVs was optimized by inclusion of a GCN4 dimerization domain and a peptide sequence derived from syntenin-1 which targets the decoy receptor to EVs. The resulting engineered EVs were able to efficiently inhibit activation of the IL6 trans-signalling pathway in reporter cells, while having no effect on the IL6 classical signalling. IL6ST decoy receptor EVs, were also capable of blocking the IL6 trans-signalling pathway in C2C12 myoblasts and myotubes, thereby inhibiting the phosphorylation of STAT3 and partially reversing the anti-differentiation effects observed when treating cells with IL6/IL6R complexes. Treatment of a Duchenne muscular dystrophy mouse model with IL6ST decoy receptor EVs resulted in a reduction in STAT3 phosphorylation in the quadriceps and gastrocnemius muscles of these mice, thereby demonstrating in vivo activity of the decoy receptor EVs as a potential therapy. Taken together, this study reveals the IL6 trans-signalling pathway as a promising therapeutic target in DMD, and demonstrates the therapeutic potential of IL6ST decoy receptor EVs.

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Decoy receptors, Exosomes, Extracellular vesicles, IL6, Inflammation, Muscle, Animals, Extracellular Vesicles, Interleukin-6, Mice, Muscle Fibers, Skeletal, Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne, Signal Transduction