Acquisition of new tumor cell properties by MSC-derived exosomes

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Interaction between multi-functional mesenchymal stroma/stem cells (MSC) and human tumor cells involves the exchange of biological material via extracellular vesicles including exosomes. Protein analysis of MSC-derived exosomes demonstrated the presence of MMP-2 and MSC-specific markers including CD90 and ecto-5′-nucleotidase (CD73). Incubation of tumor cells with these membranous particles revealed a rapid uptake of MSC-released microvesicles whereby breast cancer cells incorporated ~19% and SCCOHT-1 cells representing a rare type of small cell ovarian cancer assimilated ~28% of available exosomes within 24 h. This interaction was accompanied by functional alterations of tumor cell properties during integration of exosomal content from MSC. Indeed, exosome-associated MMP-2 exhibited functional enzyme activity and MCF-7 breast cancer cells with undetectable MMP-2 protein acquired expression of this enzyme and corresponding gelatinase functionality after stimulation with MSC-derived exosomes. Similar effects were observed in SCCOHT-1 cells during culture in the presence of MSC-derived exosomes which enabled new metabolic activities in this tumor cell type. Together, these findings demonstrated that the internalization of MSC-derived exosomes was associated with the acquisition of new tumor cell properties by altering cellular functionalities and providing the capability to re-organize the tumor microenvironment.

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