Tumour microvesicles contain retrotransposon elements and amplified oncogene sequences

Nat Commun. 2011 Feb 1;2:180. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1180.


Tumour cells release an abundance of microvesicles containing a selected set of proteins and RNAs. Here, we show that tumour microvesicles also carry DNA, which reflects the genetic status of the tumour, including amplification of the oncogene c-Myc. We also find amplified c-Myc in serum microvesicles from tumour-bearing mice. Further, we find remarkably high levels of retrotransposon RNA transcripts, especially for some human endogenous retroviruses, such as LINE-1 and Alu retrotransposon elements, in tumour microvesicles and these transposable elements could be transferred to normal cells. These findings expand the nucleic acid content of tumour microvesicles to include: elevated levels of specific coding and non-coding RNA and DNA, mutated and amplified oncogene sequences and transposable elements. Thus, tumour microvesicles contain a repertoire of genetic information available for horizontal gene transfer and potential use as blood biomarkers for cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Dosage
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism*
  • RNA Precursors / genetics
  • RNA Precursors / metabolism*
  • Retroelements / genetics*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Secretory Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Umbilical Veins / cytology


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • RNA Precursors
  • Retroelements

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE13470