Cellular genetic materials, such as microRNAs (miRNAs), mRNAs and proteins, are packaged inside exosomes, small membrane vesicles of endocytic origin that are released into the extracellular environment. These cellular genetic materials can be delivered into recipient cells, where they exert their respective biological effects. However, the miRNA profiles and biological functions of exosomes secreted by cancer cells remain unknown.
The present study explored the miRNA expression profile and distribution characteristics of exosomes derived from human esophageal cancer cells through Solexa high-throughput sequencing. Results showed that 56,421 (2.94%) unique sequences in cells and 7727 (0.63%) in exosomes matched known miRNAs. A total of 342 and 48 known miRNAs were identified in cells and exosomes, respectively. Moreover, 64 and 32 novel miRNAs were predicted in cells and exosomes, respectively. Significant differences in miRNA expression profiles were found between human esophageal cancer cells and exosomes. These findings provided new insights into the characteristics of miRNAs in exosomes derived from human esophageal cancer cells and the specific roles of miRNAs in intercellular communication mediated by exosomes in esophageal cancer.