Extracellular vesicles (EVs) act as carriers of molecular and oncogenic signatures present in subsets of tumour cells and tumour-associated stroma, and as mediators of intercellular communication. These processes likely involve cancer stem cells (CSCs). EVs represent a unique pathway of cellular export and cell-to-cell transfer of insoluble molecular regulators such as membrane receptors, signalling proteins and metabolites, thereby influencing the functional integration of cancer cell populations. While mechanisms that control biogenesis, cargo and uptake of different classes of EVs (exosomes, microvesicles, ectosomes, large oncosomes) are poorly understood, they likely remain under the influence of stress-responses, microenvironment and carcinogenic processes that define the biology and heterogeneity of human cancers. In glioblastoma (GBM), recent molecular profiling approaches distinguished several disease subtypes driven by distinct molecular, epigenetic and mutational mechanisms, leading to formation of proneural, neural, classical and mesenchymal tumours. Moreover, molecularly distinct clonal cellular lineages co-exist within individual GBM lesions, where they differentiate according to distinct stem cell hierarchies resulting in several facets of tumour heterogeneity and the related potential for intercellular interactions. Glioma stem cells (GSCs) may carry signatures of either proneural or mesenchymal GBM subtypes and differ in several biological characteristics that are, at least in part, represented by the output and repertoire of EV production (vesiculome).
Researchers at Ohio State University report that vesiculomes differ between known GBM subtypes. EVs may also reflect and influence the equilibrium of the stem cell hierarchy, contain oncogenic drivers and modulate the microenvironment (vascular niche). The GBM/GSC subtype-specific differentials in EV cargo of proteins, transcripts, microRNA and DNA may enable detection of the dynamics of the stem cell compartment and result in biological effects that remain to be fully characterized.