For metastasis to occur cells must communicate with to their local environment to initiate growth and invasion. Exosomes have emerged as an important mediator of cell-to-cell signalling through the transfer of molecules such as mRNAs, microRNAs, and proteins between cells. Exosomes have been proposed to act as regulators of cancer progression.
In this study, researchers from the NIH examine the effect of exosomes on cell migration, an important step in metastasis. They performed cell migration assays, endocytosis assays, and exosome proteomic profiling on exosomes released from three breast cancer cell lines that model progressive stages of metastasis.
Results from these experiments suggest:
(1) exosomes promote cell migration and
(2) the signal is stronger from exosomes isolated from cells with higher metastatic potentials;
(3) exosomes are endocytosed at the same rate regardless of the cell type;
(4) exosomes released from cells show differential enrichment of proteins with unique protein signatures of both identity and abundance.
The researchers conclude that breast cancer cells of increasing metastatic potential secrete exosomes with distinct protein signatures that proportionally increase cell movement and suggest that released exosomes could play an active role in metastasis.