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Int J Dev Biol. 2011;55(7-9):879-87. doi: 10.1387/ijdb.113391ah.

Exosome signaling in mammary gland development and cancer.

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  • 1Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research, Department of Radiation Oncology and Experimental Cancer Research, Ghent University Hospital, De Pintelaan 185, Ghent, Belgium.


Exosomes are 40-100 nm intraluminal vesicles that are released by cells upon fusion of multivesicular endosomes (MVEs) with the plasma membrane. The Rab family of small GTPases, including Rab27A and Rab27B, control different steps of exosome release, including transport of MVEs and docking at the plasma membrane. Exosomes are long range message particles that mediate communication between cells in physiological conditions such as mammary gland development and lactation, but also in pathology such as breast cancer. Metastasis is the culmination of cancer progression and involves a complex interaction with the local and distant environment. Exosome messaging contributes to tumor environment interactions such as immune escape, thrombosis and myofibroblast differentiation, thereby modulating metastatic niche preparation.

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