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BMC Cancer. 2018 Jan 6;18(1):47. doi: 10.1186/s12885-017-3958-1.

Mechanism of recipient cell-dependent differences in exosome uptake.

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Department of Medical Pharmaceutics, Kobe Pharmaceutical University, 4-19-1, Motoyamakita-machi, Higashinada-ku, Kobe, 658-8558, Japan.
Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, 7-5-1 Kusunoki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, 650-0017, Japan.
Educational Center for Clinical Pharmacy, Kobe Pharmaceutical University, 4-19-1 Motoyamakita-machi, Higashinada-ku, Kobe, 658-8558, Japan.
Department of Hepatology, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka City University, 1-4-3 Asahi-machi, Abeno-ku, Osaka, 545-8585, Japan.
Department of Medical Pharmaceutics, Kobe Pharmaceutical University, 4-19-1, Motoyamakita-machi, Higashinada-ku, Kobe, 658-8558, Japan.



Exosomes, small-membrane vesicles, are secreted by cells and include several types of proteins and nucleic acids. Exosomes transfer cellular information derived from donor cells and are involved in various physiological and pathological events, such as organ-specific metastasis. Elucidating the exosome uptake mechanisms is important for understanding the progression processes of organ-specific metastasis. However, whether the exosomes secreted by the donor cells are selectively or non-selectively incorporated into the recipient cells is unknown.


In this study, three human carcinoma cell lines, A549 (lung), HCT116 and COLO205 (colon), were used. The exosome isolation efficiency was compared between three methods: ultracentrifugation, ExoQuick-TC and Total Exosome Isolation kits. Recipient cells were treated with Pitstop 2, an inhibitor of clathrin-dependent endocytosis, or genistein, an inhibitor of caveolae-dependent endocytosis, and then incubated with DiO-labeled exosomes.


Among the three methods examined, ultracentrifugation was the most efficient and reproducible. Exosomes derived from a donor cell line are incorporated into the three cell lines, but the exosome uptake capability was different depending on the recipient cell type and did not depend on the donor cell type. Exosome uptake in COLO205 was inhibited by Pitstop 2 and genistein. Exosome uptake in HCT116 was inhibited by Pitstop 2, but not genistein, while that in A549 cells was not inhibited by these inhibitors. Taken together, these results suggest that the exosomes secreted by donor cells are non-selectively incorporated into recipient cells and that the exosome uptake mechanism is different depending on the recipient cells.


Different recipient cells' exosome uptake capabilities may be involved in organ-specific metastasis.


Carcinoma cell; Caveolae; Clathrin; Endocytosis; Exosome

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