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J Biol Chem. 2013 Apr 5;288(14):10093-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.C112.444562. Epub 2013 Feb 21.

Heparanase regulates secretion, composition, and function of tumor cell-derived exosomes.

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Department of Pathology, University of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA.


Emerging evidence indicates that exosomes play a key role in tumor-host cross-talk and that exosome secretion, composition, and functional capacity are altered as tumors progress to an aggressive phenotype. However, little is known regarding the mechanisms that regulate these changes. Heparanase is an enzyme whose expression is up-regulated as tumors become more aggressive and is associated with enhanced tumor growth, angiogenesis, and metastasis. We have discovered that in human cancer cells (myeloma, lymphoblastoid, and breast cancer), when expression of heparanase is enhanced or when tumor cells are exposed to exogenous heparanase, exosome secretion is dramatically increased. Heparanase enzyme activity is required for robust enhancement of exosome secretion because enzymatically inactive forms of heparanase, even when present in high amounts, do not dramatically increase exosome secretion. Heparanase also impacts exosome protein cargo as reflected by higher levels of syndecan-1, VEGF, and hepatocyte growth factor in exosomes secreted by heparanase-high expressing cells as compared with heparanase-low expressing cells. In functional assays, exosomes from heparanase-high cells stimulated spreading of tumor cells on fibronectin and invasion of endothelial cells through extracellular matrix better than did exosomes secreted by heparanase-low cells. These studies reveal that heparanase helps drive exosome secretion, alters exosome composition, and facilitates production of exosomes that impact both tumor and host cell behavior, thereby promoting tumor progression.

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