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Small GTPases. 2012 Oct-Dec;3(4):219-24. doi: 10.4161/sgtp.20755. Epub 2012 Aug 21.

R(h)oads to microvesicles.

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Department of Molecular Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.


A novel form of cell-to-cell communication involving the formation and shedding of large vesicular structures, called microvesicles (MVs), from the surfaces of highly aggressive forms of human cancer cells has been attracting increasing amounts of attention. This is in large part due to the fact that MVs contain a variety of cargo that is not typically thought to be released from cells including cell-surface receptor tyrosine kinases, cytosolic and nuclear signaling proteins and RNA transcripts. MVs, by sharing their contents with other cells, can greatly impact cancer progression by increasing primary tumor growth, as well as by promoting the development of the pre-metastatic niche. We have recently shown that the small GTPase RhoA is critical for MV biogenesis in human cancer cells. Moreover, we have now obtained evidence that implicates the highly related small GTPases, Rac and Cdc42, in regulating the loading of specific cargo into MVs, as well as in the shedding of MVs from cancer cells. Thus, linking the Rho family of small GTPases to MV biogenesis has begun to shed some light on a new and unexpected way that these signaling proteins contribute to human cancer progression.

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