Glutamine deprivation alters the origin and function of cancer cell exosomes

Exosomes are secreted extracellular vesicles carrying diverse molecular cargos, which can modulate recipient cell behaviour. They are thought to derive from intraluminal vesicles formed in late endosomal multivesicular bodies (MVBs). Researchers from the University of Oxford, describe an alternate exosome formation mechanism, which is conserved from fly to human, with exosomes carrying unique cargos, including the GTPase Rab11, generated in Rab11‐positive recycling endosomal MVBs. Release of Rab11‐positive exosomes from cancer cells is increased relative to late endosomal exosomes by reducing growth regulatory Akt/mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 (mTORC1) signalling or depleting the key metabolic substrate glutamine, which diverts membrane flux through recycling endosomes. Vesicles produced under these conditions promote tumour cell proliferation and turnover and modulate blood vessel networks in xenograft mouse models in vivo. Their growth‐promoting activity, which is also observed in vitro, is Rab11a‐dependent, involves ERK‐MAPK‐signalling and is inhibited by antibodies against amphiregulin, an EGFR ligand concentrated on these vesicles. Therefore, glutamine depletion or mTORC1 inhibition stimulates release from Rab11a compartments of exosomes with pro‐tumorigenic functions, which the researchers propose promote stress‐induced tumour adaptation.

Fan SJ, Kroeger B, Marie PP, et al. (2020) Glutamine deprivation alters the origin and function of cancer cell exosomes. EMBO J 39(16):e103009. [article]

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