uPAR-expressing melanoma exosomes promote angiogenesis by VE-Cadherin, EGFR and uPAR overexpression and rise of ERK1,2 signaling in endothelial cells

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2020 Nov 25. doi: 10.1007/s00018-020-03707-4. Online ahead of print.


Exosomes (Exos) have been reported to promote pre-metastatic niche formation, proliferation, angiogenesis and metastasis. We have investigated the role of uPAR in melanoma cell lines-derived Exos and their pro-angiogenic effects on human microvascular endothelial cells (HMVECs) and endothelial colony-forming cells (ECFCs). Melanoma Exos were isolated from conditioned media of A375 and M6 cells by differential centrifugation and filtration. Tunable Resistive Pulse Sensing (TRPS) and Nanoparticle tracking analysis were performed to analyze dimension and concentration of Exos. The CRISPR-Cas 9 technology was exploited to obtain a robust uPAR knockout. uPAR is expressed in melanoma Exos that are internalized by HMVECs and ECFCs, enhancing VE-Cadherin, EGFR and uPAR expression in endothelial cells that undergo a complete angiogenic program, including proliferation, migration and tube formation. uPAR loss reduced the pro-angiogenic effects of melanoma Exos in vitro and in vivo by inhibition of VE-Cadherin, EGFR and uPAR expression and of ERK1,2 signaling in endothelial cells. A similar effect was obtained with a peptide that inhibits uPAR-EGFR interaction and with the EGFR inhibitor Gefitinib, which also inhibited melanoma Exos-dependent EGFR phosphorylation. This study suggests that uPAR is required for the pro-angiogenic activity of melanoma Exos. We propose the identification of uPAR-expressing Exos as a potentially useful biomarker for assessing pro-angiogenic propensity and eventually monitoring the response to treatment in metastatic melanoma patients.

Keywords: Angiogenesis; Endothelial cells; Exosomes; Melanoma cells; uPA/uPAR system.