Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) accounts for 15-20% of breast cancers but is responsible for a disproportionate number of deaths. We investigated the relevance, in TNBC, of nano-sized exosomes expelled from cells. Specifically, we compared effects of exosomes derived from the claudin-low TNBC cell line Hs578T and its more invasive Hs578Ts(i)8 variant, as well as exosomes from TNBC patient sera compared to normal sera. Exosomes were isolated from conditioned media (CM) of Hs578T and Hs578Ts(i)8 cells and from sera by filtration and ultracentrifugation. Successful isolation was confirmed by transmission electron microscopy and immunoblotting. Subsequent analysis, of secondary/recipient cells in response to exosomes, included proliferation; motility/migration; invasion; anoikis assays and endothelial tubule formation assays. Hs578Ts(i)8-exosomes versus Hs578T-exosomes significantly increased the proliferation, migration and invasion capacity of all three recipient cell lines evaluated i.e. SKBR3, MDA-MB-231 and HCC1954. Exosomes from Hs578Ts(i)8 cells also conferred increased invasiveness to parent Hs578T cells. Hs578Ts(i)8-exosomes increased sensitivity of SKBR3, MDA-MB-231 and HCC1954 to anoikis when compared to the effects of Hs578T-exosomes reflecting the fact that Hs578Ts(i)8 cells are themselves innately more sensitive to anoikis. In relation to vasculogenesis and subsequent angiogenesis, Hs578Ts(i)8-exosomes versus Hs578T-exosomes stimulated significantly more endothelial tubules formation. Finally, our pilot translational study showed that exosomes from TNBC patients' sera significantly increased recipient cells' invasion when compared to those derived from age- and gender-matched healthy control sera. This study supports the hypothesis that TNBC exosomes may be involved in cancer cell-to-cell communication, conferring phenotypic traits to secondary cells that reflect those of their cells of origin.
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