Researchers at the Beijing Friendship Hospital used ExoQuick-TC™ Exosome Precipitation Solution to isolate exosomes from the serum of colon cancer patients and identify RNAs in the small vesicles. The shapes of exosomes were observed under a transmission electron microscope. Mass spectrometry was used to identify the classification of miRNAs encapsulated in exosomes, and the expression levels of miRNA-21,-133a, and -181b in exosomes were detected by RT-PCR.
Exosomes isolated from serum of colon cancer patients were circular-or oval-shaped and vary in size with a diameter of 40-100 nm. Mass spectrometry shows that the main RNAs in exosomes are small RNAs; the levels of these small RNAs in exosomes are significantly higher compared with fresh serum. There is still a tiny amount of small RNAs in exosome-free serum, but the amounts are significantly lower than that in exosomes. No more RNAs were detected in the repeated freezing and thawing serum, but there were still some RNAs detectable in the exosomes extracted from these serums. MiRNA-21, -133a and -181b can be detected in exosomes, and the level of miRNA-21 is associated with early diagnosis of colon cancer.
This study demonstrates that commercial kits for exosome separation are convenient and time-saving and that mass spectrometry is capable of identifying the miRNAs in exosomes. Compared with direct extraction of miRNAs from the serum, the method of isolating exosomes from the serum first and then extracting miRNAs from the exosomes can enhance the stability and integrity of their inner miRNAs. Also, the researchers demonstrate that the exosomal miRNA-21 expression is associated with the early diagnosis of colon cancer.