Hepatocellular carcinoma-derived exosomes promote motility of immortalized hepatocyte through transfer of oncogenic proteins and RNAs

Carcinogenesis. 2015 Sep;36(9):1008-18. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgv081. Epub 2015 Jun 7.


Exosomes are increasingly recognized as important mediators of cell-cell communication in cancer progression through the horizontal transfer of RNAs and proteins to neighboring or distant cells. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a highly malignant cancer, whose metastasis is largely influenced by the tumor microenvironment. The possible role of exosomes in the interactions between HCC tumor cell and its surrounding hepatic milieu are however largely unknown. In this study, we comprehensively characterized the exosomal RNA and proteome contents derived from three HCC cell lines (HKCI-C3, HKCI-8 and MHCC97L) and an immortalized hepatocyte line (MIHA) using Ion Torrent sequencing and mass spectrometry, respectively. RNA deep sequencing and proteomic analysis revealed exosomes derived from metastatic HCC cell lines carried a large number of protumorigenic RNAs and proteins, such as MET protooncogene, S100 family members and the caveolins. Of interest, we found that exosomes from motile HCC cell lines could significantly enhance the migratory and invasive abilities of non-motile MIHA cell. We further demonstrated that uptake of these shuttled molecules could trigger PI3K/AKT and MAPK signaling pathways in MIHA with increased secretion of active MMP-2 and MMP-9. Our study showed for the first time that HCC-derived exosomes could mobilize normal hepatocyte, which may have implication in facilitating the protrusive activity of HCC cells through liver parenchyma during the process of metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Caveolin 1 / biosynthesis
  • Caveolin 1 / genetics
  • Caveolin 2 / biosynthesis
  • Caveolin 2 / genetics
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Exosomes / genetics
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / genetics
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / metabolism
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / genetics
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / genetics
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • S100 Proteins / biosynthesis
  • S100 Proteins / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • CAV1 protein, human
  • CAV2 protein, human
  • Caveolin 1
  • Caveolin 2
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • S100 Proteins
  • RNA
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • MET protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • MMP2 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2
  • MMP9 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9