Cell free DNA is often regarded as a source of genetic cancer biomarkers, but the related mechanisms of DNA release, composition and biological activity remain unclear. Here we show that rat epithelial cell transformation by the human H-ras oncogene leads to an increase in production of small, exosomal-like extracellular vesicles by viable cancer cells. These EVs contain chromatin-associated double-stranded DNA fragments covering the entire host genome, including full-length H-ras. Oncogenic N-ras and SV40LT sequences were also found in EVs emitted from spontaneous mouse brain tumor cells. Disruption of acidic sphingomyelinase and the p53/Rb pathway did not block emission of EV-related oncogenic DNA. Exposure of non-transformed RAT-1 cells to EVs containing mutant H-ras DNA led to the uptake and retention of this material for an extended (30days) but transient period of time, and stimulated cell proliferation. Thus, our study suggests that H-ras-mediated transformation stimulates vesicular emission of this histone-bound oncogene, which may interact with non-transformed cells.
Keywords: Chromatin; DNA; Extracellular vesicle; Oncogene; Ras; Sphingomyelinase.
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