Microvesicle- and exosome-mediated drug delivery enhances the cytotoxicity of Paclitaxel in autologous prostate cancer cells

J Control Release. 2015 Dec 28;220(Pt B):727-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2015.09.031. Epub 2015 Sep 24.


Background: Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are naturally occurring membrane particles that mediate intercellular communication by delivering molecular information between cells. In this study, we investigated the effectiveness of two different populations of EVs (microvesicle- and exosome-enriched) as carriers of Paclitaxel to autologous prostate cancer cells.

Methods: EVs were isolated from LNCaP- and PC-3 prostate cancer cell cultures using differential centrifugation and characterized by electron microscopy, nanoparticle tracking analysis, and Western blot. The uptake of microvesicles and exosomes by the autologous prostate cancer cells was assessed by flow cytometry and confocal microscopy. The EVs were loaded with Paclitaxel and the effectiveness of EV-mediated drug delivery was assessed with viability assays. The distribution of EVs and EV-delivered Paclitaxel in cells was inspected by confocal microscopy.

Results: Our main finding was that the loading of Paclitaxel to autologous prostate cancer cell-derived EVs increased its cytotoxic effect. This capacity was independent of the EV population and the cell line tested. Although the EVs without the drug increased cancer cell viability, the net effect of enhanced cytotoxicity remained. Both EV populations delivered Paclitaxel to the recipient cells through endocytosis, leading to the release of the drug from within the cells. The removal of EV surface proteins did not affect exosomes, while the drug delivery mediated by microvesicles was partially inhibited.

Conclusions: Cancer cell-derived EVs can be used as effective carriers of Paclitaxel to their parental cells, bringing the drug into the cells through an endocytic pathway and increasing its cytotoxicity. However, due to the increased cell viability, the use of cancer cell-derived EVs must be further investigated before any clinical applications can be designed.

Keywords: Drug delivery; Exosomes; Extracellular vesicles; Microvesicles; Paclitaxel; Prostate cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / chemistry
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / metabolism*
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Carriers*
  • Endocytosis*
  • Exosomes / chemistry
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nanoparticles
  • Paclitaxel / administration & dosage
  • Paclitaxel / chemistry
  • Paclitaxel / metabolism
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology*
  • Phenotype
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Time Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Drug Carriers
  • Paclitaxel