Exosomes secreted under hypoxia enhance invasiveness and stemness of prostate cancer cells by targeting adherens junction molecules

Mol Carcinog. 2015 Jul;54(7):554-65. doi: 10.1002/mc.22124. Epub 2013 Dec 17.


Hypoxic conditions in prostate cancer (PCA) are associated with poor prognosis; however, precise mechanism/s through which hypoxia promotes malignant phenotype remains unclear. Here, we analyzed the role of exosomes from hypoxic PCA cells in enhancing the invasiveness and stemness of naïve PCA cells, as well as in promoting cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF) phenotype in prostate stromal cells (PrSC). Human PCA LNCaP and PC3 cells were exposed to hypoxic (1% O2 ) or normoxic (21% O2 ) conditions, and exosomes secreted under hypoxic (Exo(Hypoxic) ) and normoxic (Exo(Normoxic) ) conditions were isolated from conditioned media. Nanoparticle tracking analysis revealed that Exo(Hypoxic) have smaller average size as compared to Exo(Normoxic) . Immunoblotting results showed a higher level of tetraspanins (CD63 and CD81), heat shock proteins (HSP90 and HSP70), and Annexin II in Exo(Hypoxic) compared to Exo(Normoxic) . Co-culturing with Exo(Hypoxic) increased the invasiveness and motility of naïve LNCaP and PC3 cells, respectively. Exo(Hypoxic) also promoted prostasphere formation by both LNCaP and PC3 cells, and enhanced α-SMA (a CAF biomarker) expression in PrSC. Compared to Exo(Normoxic) , Exo(Hypoxic) showed higher metalloproteinases activity and increased level of diverse signaling molecules (TGF-β2, TNF1α, IL6, TSG101, Akt, ILK1, and β-catenin). Furthermore, proteome analysis revealed a higher number of proteins in Exo(Hypoxic) (160 proteins) compared to Exo(Normoxic) (62 proteins), primarily associated with the remodeling of epithelial adherens junction pathway. Importantly, Exo(Hypoxic) targeted the expression of adherens junction proteins in naïve PC3 cells. These findings suggest that Exo(Hypoxic) are loaded with unique proteins that could enhance invasiveness, stemness, and induce microenvironment changes; thereby, promoting PCA aggressiveness.

Keywords: adherens junction; exosomes; hypoxia; invasiveness; prostate cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adherens Junctions / metabolism
  • Adherens Junctions / pathology*
  • Annexin A2 / analysis
  • Annexin A2 / metabolism
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Exosomes / metabolism
  • Exosomes / pathology*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / analysis
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / complications*
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Hypoxia / pathology
  • Male
  • Metalloproteases / analysis
  • Metalloproteases / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Prostate / metabolism
  • Prostate / pathology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / complications*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Proteome / analysis
  • Proteome / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tetraspanins / analysis
  • Tetraspanins / metabolism


  • Annexin A2
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Proteome
  • Tetraspanins
  • Metalloproteases