Hypoxia, a hallmark characteristic of glioblastoma (GBM) induces changes in the transcriptome and the proteome of tumor cells. We discovered that hypoxic stress produces significant qualitative and quantitative changes in the protein content of secreted exosomes from GBM cells. Among the proteins found to be selectively elevated in hypoxic exosomes were protein-lysine 6-oxidase (LOX), thrombospondin-1 (TSP1), vascular derived endothelial factor (VEGF) and a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 1 (ADAMTS1), well studied contributors to tumor progression, metastasis and angiogenesis. Our findings demonstrate that hypoxic exosomes induce differential gene expression in recipient glioma cells. Glioma cells stimulated with hypoxic exosomes showed a marked upregulation of small nucleolar RNA, C/D box 116-21 (SNORD116-21) transcript among others while significantly downregulated the potassium voltage-gated channel subfamily J member 3 (KCNJ3) message. This differential expression of certain genes is governed by the protein cargo being transferred via exosomes. Additionally, compared to normoxic exosomes, hypoxic exosomes increased various angiogenic related parameters vis-à-vis, overall tube length, branching intervals and length of isolated branches studied in tube formation assay with endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs). Thus, the intercellular communication facilitated via exosomes secreted from hypoxic GBM cells induce marked changes in the expression of genes in neighboring normoxic tumor cells and possibly in surrounding stromal cells, many of which are involved in cancer progression and treatment resistance mechanisms.
Keywords: Angiogenesis; Exosomes; Glioblastoma; Hypoxia; Proteomics; Transcriptome.