Exosomal miRNA signatures of pancreatic lesions

BMC Gastroenterol. 2020 May 6;20(1):137. doi: 10.1186/s12876-020-01287-y.


Background: Pancreatic and peri-pancreatic neoplasms encompass a variety of histotypes characterized by a heterogeneous prognostic impact. miRNAs are considered efficient candidate biomarkers due to their high stability in tissues and body fluids. We applied Nanostring profiling of circulating exosomal miRNAs to distinct pancreatic lesions in order to establish a source for biomarker development.

Methods: A series of 140 plasma samples obtained from patients affected by pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC, n = 58), pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PanNET, n = 42), intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMN, n = 20), and ampulla of Vater carcinomas (AVC, n = 20) were analyzed. Comprehensive miRNA profiling was performed on plasma-derived exosomes. Relevant miRNAs were validated by qRT-PCR and in situ hybridization (ISH).

Results: Lesion specific miRNAs were identified through multiple disease comparisons. Selected miRNAs were validated in the plasma by qRT-PCR and at tissue level by ISH. We leveraged the presence of clinical subtypes with each disease cohort to identify miRNAs that are differentially enriched in aggressive phenotypes.

Conclusions: This study shows that pancreatic lesions are characterized by specific exosomal-miRNA signatures. We also provide the basis for further explorations in order to better understand the relevance of these signatures in pancreatic neoplasms.

Keywords: Circulating miRNAs; Early biomarkers; Exosomes; NanoString profiling; Pancreatic lesions.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ampulla of Vater / pathology
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / genetics*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exosomes / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / genetics*
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Prognosis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MicroRNAs