Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer-related death. There is an urgent need for new methods of early CRC detection and monitoring to improve patient outcomes. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are secreted, lipid-bilayer bound, nanoparticles that carry biological cargo throughout the body and in turn exhibit cancer-related biomarker potential. RNA binding proteins (RBPs) are posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression that may provide a link between host cell gene expression and EV phenotypes. Insulin-like growth factor 2 RNA binding protein 1 (IGF2BP1/IMP1) is an RBP that is highly expressed in CRC with higher levels of expression correlating with poor prognosis. IMP1 binds and potently regulates tumor-associated transcripts that may impact CRC EV phenotypes. Our objective was to test whether IMP1 expression levels impact EV secretion and/or cargo. We used RNA sequencing, in vitro CRC cell lines, ex vivo colonoid models, and xenograft mice to test the hypothesis that IMP1 influences EV secretion and/or cargo in human CRC. Our data demonstrate that IMP1 modulates the RNA expression of transcripts associated with extracellular vesicle pathway regulation, but it has no effect on EV secretion levels in vitro or in vivo. Rather, IMP1 appears to affect EV regulation by directly entering EVs in a transformation-dependent manner. These findings suggest that IMP1 has the ability to shape EV cargo in human CRC, which could serve as a diagnostic/prognostic circulating tumor biomarker.NEW & NOTEWORTHY This work demonstrates that the RNA binding protein IGF2BP1/IMP1 alters the transcript profile of colorectal cancer cell (CRC) mRNAs from extracellular vesicle (EV) pathways. IMP1 does not alter EV production or secretion in vitro or in vivo, but rather enters CRC cells where it may further impact EV cargo. Our work shows that IMP1 has the ability to shape EV cargo in human CRC, which could serve as a diagnostic/prognostic circulating tumor biomarker.
Keywords: RNA binding protein; colorectal adenocarcinoma; exosome; liquid biopsy.