MicroRNA and protein profiling of brain metastasis competent cell-derived exosomes

PLoS One. 2013 Sep 16;8(9):e73790. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073790. eCollection 2013.


Exosomes are small membrane vesicles released by most cell types including tumor cells. The intercellular exchange of proteins and genetic material via exosomes is a potentially effective approach for cell-to-cell communication and it may perform multiple functions aiding to tumor survival and metastasis. We investigated microRNA and protein profiles of brain metastatic (BM) versus non-brain metastatic (non-BM) cell-derived exosomes. We studied the cargo of exosomes isolated from brain-tropic 70W, MDA-MB-231BR, and circulating tumor cell brain metastasis-selected markers (CTC1BMSM) variants, and compared them with parental non-BM MeWo, MDA-MB-231P and CTC1P cells, respectively. By performing microRNA PCR array we identified one up-regulated (miR-210) and two down-regulated miRNAs (miR-19a and miR-29c) in BM versus non-BM exosomes. Second, we analyzed the proteomic content of cells and exosomes isolated from these six cell lines, and detected high expression of proteins implicated in cell communication, cell cycle, and in key cancer invasion and metastasis pathways. Third, we show that BM cell-derived exosomes can be internalized by non-BM cells and that they effectively transport their cargo into cells, resulting in increased cell adhesive and invasive potencies. These results provide a strong rationale for additional investigations of exosomal proteins and miRNAs towards more profound understandings of exosome roles in brain metastasis biogenesis, and for the discovery and application of non-invasive biomarkers for new therapies combating brain metastasis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Exosomes / genetics
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Exosomes / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Proteomics


  • MicroRNAs