Oral cancer cell‑derived exosomes modulate natural killer cell activity by regulating the receptors on these cells

Int J Mol Med. 2020 Dec;46(6):2115-2125. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2020.4736. Epub 2020 Sep 24.


Oral cancer (OC) is the most common type of head and neck malignant tumor. Tumor‑derived exosomes induce a complex extracellular environment that affects tumor immunity. In the present study, exosomes were isolated from OC cell lines (WSU‑HN4 and SCC‑9) by ultrafiltration and the protein content of these oral cancer‑derived exosomes (OCEXs) was analyzed by mass spectrometry, which revealed the enrichment of transforming growth factor (TGF)‑β1. Natural killer (NK) cells were examined by flow cytometry following co‑culture with OCEXs. The expression of killer cell lectin like receptor K1 (KLRK1; also known as NKG2D, as used herein) and natural cytotoxicity triggering receptor 3 (NCR3; also known as NKp30, as used herein) in NK cells was found to be significantly upregulated following co‑culture with the OCEXs for 1 day, whereas this expression decreased at 7 days. Killer cell lectin like receptor C1 (KLRC1; also known as NKG2A; as used herein) expression exhibited an opposite trend at 1 day. In addition, NK cell cytotoxicity against the OC cells was enhanced at 1 day, but was attenuated at 7 days. TGF‑β1 inhibited the function of NK cells at 7 days, whereas it had no obvious effects at 1 and 3 days. On the whole, the findings of the present study reveal changes in NK cell function and provide new insight into NK cell dysfunction.