Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) displays high resistance to conventional chemotherapy. Considering that microRNA-122 (miR-122) performs an essential function to promote chemosensitivity of HCC cells, an effective vehicle-mediated miR-122 delivery may represent a promising strategy for HCC chemotherapy. An increasing interest is focused on the use of exosomes as biological vehicles for microRNAs (miRNA) transfer. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are known for their capacity to produce large amounts of exosomes. This study aimed to determine whether adipose tissue-derived MSC (AMSC) exosomes can be used for miR-122 delivery.
Methods: AMSCs were transfected with a miR-122 expression plasmid. At 48 h after transfection, AMSC-derived exosomes (122-Exo) were harvested and added to recipient HCC cells. Expression levels of miR-122 in AMSCs, exosomes, and HCC cells were quantified by real-time PCR. The mRNA and protein levels of miR-122-target genes in recipient HCC cells were quantified by real-time PCR and Western blot, respectively. The effects of 122-Exo on cell viability, apoptosis, and cell cycle of HCC cells were evaluated by MTT and flow cytometry analysis. Xenograft models were used to determine whether 122-Exo can sensitize HCC cells to sorafenib in vivo.
Results: Data showed that miR-122-transfected AMSC can effectively package miR-122 into secreted exosomes, which can mediate miR-122 communication between AMSCs and HCC cells, thereby rendering cancer cells sensitive to chemotherapeutic agents through alteration of miR-122-target gene expression in HCC cells. Moreover, intra-tumor injection of 122-Exo significantly increased the antitumor efficacy of sorafenib on HCC in vivo.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that the export of miR-122 via AMSC exosomes represents a novel strategy to enhance HCC chemosensitivity.