Colorectal cancer-derived microvesicles modulate differentiation of human monocytes to macrophages

J Transl Med. 2016 Feb 2;14:36. doi: 10.1186/s12967-016-0789-9.


Background: Tumour-derived microvesicles (TMVs) are important players in tumour progression, modulating biological activity of immune cells e.g. lymphocytes, monocytes and macrophages. This phenomenon is particularly interesting in the progression of colon cancer, as macrophages in this type of tumour are relevant for the recovery processes. In the present study, the role of colon cancer cell-derived microvesicles in monocyte differentiation and activity profile (polarization) was investigated.

Methods: Monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) were differentiated in vitro in the presence of TMVs obtained from colon cancer: Caco-2, SW620, LoVo or SW480 cell lines and analysed according to their morphology and biological functions, as defined by cytokine secretion, reactive oxygen intermediate (ROI) production and cytotoxic activity against respective colon cancer cells.

Results: Monocytes differentiated with TMVs exhibited morphological and phenotypical characteristics of macrophages. An early contact (beginning with the first day of the in vitro culture) of monocytes with TMVs resulted in increased IL-10 secretion and only slightly elevated TNF release. Early, or prolonged contact resulted in low ROI production and low cytotoxicity against tumour cells. On the other hand, late contact of MDM with TMVs, stimulated MDM to significant TNF and IL-12 secretion, ROI production and enhanced cytotoxicity against tumour cells in vitro. In addition, differences in MDM response to TMVs from different cell lines were observed (according to cytokine secretion, ROI production and cytotoxicity against tumour cells in vitro). Biological activity, STATs phosphorylation and microRNA profiling of MDMs indicated differences in their polarization/activation status which may suggest mixed polarization type M1/M2 with the predominance of proinflammatory cells after late contact with TMVs.

Conclusions: Macrophage activity (polarization status) may be regulated by contact with not only tumour cells but also with TMVs. Their final polarization status depends on the contact time, and probably on the vesicle "cargo", as signified by the distinct impact of TMVs which enabled the switching of MDM maturation to regulatory macrophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Death
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Shape
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / metabolism
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / pathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Monocytes / pathology*
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphorylation
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • MicroRNAs
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor