Tumor-derived exosomes regulate expression of immune function-related genes in human T cell subsets

Sci Rep. 2016 Feb 4;6:20254. doi: 10.1038/srep20254.


Tumor cell-derived exosomes (TEX) suppress functions of immune cells. Here, changes in the gene profiles of primary human T lymphocytes exposed in vitro to exosomes were evaluated. CD4(+) Tconv, CD8(+) T or CD4(+) CD39(+) Treg were isolated from normal donors' peripheral blood and co-incubated with TEX or exosomes isolated from supernatants of cultured dendritic cells (DEX). Expression levels of 24-27 immune response-related genes in these T cells were quantified by qRT-PCR. In activated T cells, TEX and DEX up-regulated mRNA expression levels of multiple genes. Multifactorial data analysis of ΔCt values identified T cell activation and the immune cell type, but not exosome source, as factors regulating gene expression by exosomes. Treg were more sensitive to TEX-mediated effects than other T cell subsets. In Treg, TEX-mediated down-regulation of genes regulating the adenosine pathway translated into high expression of CD39 and increased adenosine production. TEX also induced up-regulation of inhibitory genes in CD4(+) Tconv, which translated into a loss of CD69 on their surface and a functional decline. Exosomes are not internalized by T cells, but signals they carry and deliver to cell surface receptors modulate gene expression and functions of human T lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / metabolism
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / metabolism
  • Apyrase / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lectins, C-Type / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / cytology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • CD69 antigen
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Apyrase
  • CD39 antigen
  • Adenosine