Seminars in Immunopathology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 455–467 | Cite as

Microvesicles as mediators of intercellular communication in cancer—the emerging science of cellular ‘debris’

  • Tae Hoon Lee
  • Esterina D’Asti
  • Nathalie Magnus
  • Khalid Al-Nedawi
  • Brian Meehan
  • Janusz Rak
Review

Abstract

Cancer cells emit a heterogeneous mixture of vesicular, organelle-like structures (microvesicles, MVs) into their surroundings including blood and body fluids. MVs are generated via diverse biological mechanisms triggered by pathways involved in oncogenic transformation, microenvironmental stimulation, cellular activation, stress, or death. Vesiculation events occur either at the plasma membrane (ectosomes, shed vesicles) or within endosomal structures (exosomes). MVs are increasingly recognized as mediators of intercellular communication due to their capacity to merge with and transfer a repertoire of bioactive molecular content (cargo) to recipient cells. Such processes may occur both locally and systemically, contributing to the formation of microenvironmental fields and niches. The bioactive cargo of MVs may include growth factors and their receptors, proteases, adhesion molecules, signalling molecules, as well as DNA, mRNA, and microRNA (miRs) sequences. Tumour cells emit large quantities of MVs containing procoagulant, growth regulatory and oncogenic cargo (oncosomes), which can be transferred throughout the cancer cell population and to non-transformed stromal cells, endothelial cells and possibly to the inflammatory infiltrates (oncogenic field effect). These events likely impact tumour invasion, angiogenesis, metastasis, drug resistance, and cancer stem cell hierarchy. Ongoing studies explore the molecular mechanisms and mediators of MV-based intercellular communication (cancer vesiculome) with the hope of using this information as a possible source of therapeutic targets and disease biomarkers in cancer.

Keywords

Angiogenesis Biomarker Cancer Exosomes Intercellular communication Microvesicles Oncogenes 

Abbreviations

MVs

Microvesicles

TF

Tissue factor

EGFR

Epidermal growth factor receptor

EGFRvIII

Mutant EGFR (variant III)

GBM

Glioblastoma multiforme

IL-6

Interleukin-6

IL-8

Interleukin-8

mRNA

Messenger ribonucleic acid

PS

Phosphatidylserine

RTK

Receptor tyrosine kinase

VEGF

Vascular endothelial growth factor

VEGFR-2

VEGF receptor 2

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by grants from the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute (CCSRI) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to J.R. who is a holder of the Jack Cole Chair in Pediatric Oncology at McGill University.

Disclosures

None.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tae Hoon Lee
    • 1
  • Esterina D’Asti
    • 1
  • Nathalie Magnus
    • 1
  • Khalid Al-Nedawi
    • 1
  • Brian Meehan
    • 1
  • Janusz Rak
    • 1
  1. 1.Montreal Children’s Hospital Research InstituteMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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