MicroRNA-100 shuttled by mesenchymal stem cell-derived exosomes suppresses in vitro angiogenesis through modulating the mTOR/HIF-1α/VEGF signaling axis in breast cancer cells



Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been shown to be involved in the formation and modulation of tumor stroma and in interacting with tumor cells, partly through their secretome. Exosomes are nano-sized intraluminal multi-vesicular bodies secreted by most types of cells and have been found to mediate intercellular communication through the transfer of genetic information via coding and non-coding RNAs to recipient cells. Since exosomes are considered as protective and enriched sources of shuttle microRNAs (miRNAs), we hypothesized that exosomal transfer of miRNAs from MSCs may affect tumor cell behavior, particularly angiogenesis.


Exosomes derived from MSCs were isolated and characterized by scanning electron microscopy analyses, dynamic light scattering measurements, and Western blotting. Fold changes in miR-100 expression levels were calculated in exosomes and their corresponding donor cells by qRT-PCR. The effects of exosomal transfer of miR-100 from MSCs were assessed by qRT-PCR and Western blotting of the mTOR/HIF-1α/VEGF signaling axis in breast cancer cells. The quantification of secreted VEGF protein was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The putative paracrine effects of MSC-derived exosomes on tumor angiogenesis were explored by in vitro angiogenesis assays including endothelial cell proliferation, migration and tube formation assays.


We found that MSC-derived exosomes induce a significant and dose-dependent decrease in the expression and secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) through modulating the mTOR/HIF-1α signaling axis in breast cancer-derived cells. We also found that miR-100 is enriched in MSC-derived exosomes and that its transfer to breast cancer-derived cells is associated with the down-regulation of VEGF in a time-dependent manner. The putative role of exosomal miR-100 transfer in regulating VEGF expression was substantiated by the ability of anti-miR-100 to rescue the inhibitory effects of MSC-derived exosomes on the expression of VEGF in breast cancer-derived cells. In addition, we found that down-regulation of VEGF mediated by MSC-derived exosomes can affect the vascular behavior of endothelial cells in vitro.


Overall, our findings suggest that exosomal transfer of miR-100 may be a novel mechanism underlying the paracrine effects of MSC-derived exosomes and may provide a means by which these vesicles can modulate vascular responses within the microenvironment of breast cancer cells.

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The authors are grateful to the members of the Departments of Genetics and Biochemistry, Tarbiat Modares University, for their excellent technical assistance and advice. This work was supported by research grants from the Tarbiat Modares University and the Council for Development of Stem Cell Sciences and Technologies (Grant No. 11/77227).

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Pakravan, K., Babashah, S., Sadeghizadeh, M. et al. MicroRNA-100 shuttled by mesenchymal stem cell-derived exosomes suppresses in vitro angiogenesis through modulating the mTOR/HIF-1α/VEGF signaling axis in breast cancer cells. Cell Oncol. 40, 457–470 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13402-017-0335-7

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  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Exosome
  • Angiogenesis
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor
  • Breast cancer