Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology

, Volume 142, Issue 7, pp 1395–1406 | Cite as

Membrane microparticles: shedding new light into cancer cell communication

  • Paloma Silva de Souza
  • Roberta Soares Faccion
  • Paula Sabbo Bernardo
  • Raquel Ciuvalschi MaiaEmail author
Review – Cancer Research



Microparticles (MPs) or ectosomes are small enclosed fragments (from 0.2 to 2 μm in diameter) released from the cellular plasma membrane. Several oncogenic molecules have been identified inside MPs, including soluble proteins XIAP, survivin, metalloproteinases, CX3CL1, PYK2 and other microRNA-related proteins; membrane proteins EGFR, HER-2, integrins and efflux pumps; and messenger RNAs and microRNAs miR-21, miR-27a, let-7, miR-451, among others. Studies have shown that MPs transfer their cargo to neoplastic or non-malignant cells and thus contribute to activation of oncogenic pathways, resulting in cell survival, drug resistance and cancer dissemination.

Discussion and Conclusion

This review summarizes recent findings on MP biogenesis and the role of the MPs cargo in cancer and discusses some of the RNAs and proteins involved. In addition, the discussion covers evidence of (1) how and which signaling pathways can be activated by MPs in recipient cells; (2) recipient cell-type selectivity in incorporation of proteins and RNAs transported by MPs; and (3) how upon stimulation, stromal cells release MPs, promoting resistance to chemotherapeutics and invasiveness in cancer cells.


Microparticles Multidrug resistance Cancer Intercellular communication MicroRNAs Akt and ERK signaling pathways 



This work was supported by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) and Fundação para Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ). PSS and RSF were supported by postdoctoral fellowships from Ministério da Saúde/Instituto Nacional de Câncer. PSB was supported by a “Nota 10” Ph.D. scholarship from (FAPERJ).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare to have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paloma Silva de Souza
    • 1
  • Roberta Soares Faccion
    • 1
  • Paula Sabbo Bernardo
    • 2
  • Raquel Ciuvalschi Maia
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratório de Hemato-Oncologia Celular e Molecular, Programa de Hemato-Oncologia MolecularBrazilian National Cancer Institute (INCA)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Programa de Pós-Graduação em OncologiaINCARio de JaneiroBrazil

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