Cancer-associated fibroblast-derived extracellular vesicles promote lymph node metastases

Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have been revealed to facilitate the development of oral squamous cavity cell carcinoma (OCSCC), while its supporting role in lymph node metastases is under continuous investigation. This study aimed to examine the function of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF)-derived EVs (CAF-EVs) during lymph node metastasis in OCSCC and the mechanisms.

CAF were isolated from OCSCC tissues of patients, and CAF-EVs were extracted and identified. EdU, colony formation, wound healing, and Transwell assays were performed. The OCSCC cells before and after CAF-EVs treatment were injected into mice to probe the effects of CAF-EVs on tumor growth and lymph node metastasis, respectively. The effect of CAF-EVs treatment on transcriptome changes in OCSCC cells was analyzed. Clinical data of patients with OCSCC were analyzed to determine the prognostic significance of the selected genes. Finally, loss-of-function assays were conducted to corroborate the involvement of polycomb complex protein BMI-1 (BMI1) and integrin beta1 (ITGB1).

CAF-EVs promoted the malignant behavior of OCSCC cells and accelerated tumor growth and lymph node metastasis in mice. CAF-EVs significantly increased the expression of BMI1 and ITGB1, and the expression of BMI1 and ITGB1 was negatively correlated with the overall survival and relapse-free survival of OCSCC patients. Knockdown of BMI1 or ITGB1 in OCSCC cells abated the promoting effects of CAF-EVs in vitro and in vivo.

Diagram of the hypothetical mechanism clarifying the effect
of BMI1 and ITGB1 in CAF-EVs on lymph node metastasis in OCSCC

CAF-EVs elicited the metastasis-promoting properties in OCSCC by elevating BMI1 and ITGB1, suggesting that BMI1 and ITGB1 could be potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets for OCSCC.

Lv T, Liu H, Mao L, Song Y, Liao L, Zhong K, Shuai B, Luo Y, Guo T, Huang W, Zhang S. (2024) Cancer-associated fibroblast-derived extracellular vesicles promote lymph node metastases in oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma by encapsulating ITGB1 and BMI1. BMC Cancer 24(1):113. [article]

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