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High-metastatic cancer cells derived exosomal miR92a-3p promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition and metastasis of low-metastatic cancer cells by regulating PTEN/Akt pathway in hepatocellular carcinoma

  • Yang, Beng1, 2, 3, 4
  • Feng, Xiaode1
  • Liu, Hua1, 2
  • Tong, Rongliang1
  • Wu, Jingbang1
  • Li, Changbiao1
  • Yu, Hanxi1
  • Chen, Yunhao1, 4
  • Cheng, Qiyang1, 2
  • Chen, Junru1, 3
  • Cai, Xianlei1
  • Wu, Wenxuan1
  • Lu, Yuejie1
  • Hu, Jiating1
  • Liang, Kejiong1
  • Lv, Zhen1
  • Wu, Jian1, 2, 3, 4
  • Zheng, Shusen1, 2, 3, 4
  • 1 The First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine,
  • 2 NHC Key Laboratory of Combined Multi-organ Transplantation, Hangzhou, Zhejiang China
  • 3 Key Laboratory of the diagnosis and treatment of organ Transplantation, CAMS,
  • 4 Key Laboratory of Organ Transplantation,
Published Article
Nature Publishing Group UK
Publication Date
Sep 11, 2020
DOI: 10.1038/s41388-020-01450-5
PMID: 32917956
PMCID: PMC7561497
PubMed Central


Exosomes play an important role in intercellular communication and metastatic progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, cellular communication between heterogeneous HCC cells with different metastatic potentials and the resultant cancer progression are not fully understood in HCC. Here, HCC cells with high-metastatic capacity (97hm and Huhm) were constructed by continually exerting selective pressure on primary HCC cells (MHCC-97H and Huh7). Through performing exosomal miRNA sequencing in HCC cells with different metastatic potentials (MHCC-97H and 97hm), many significantly different miRNA candidates were found. Among these miRNAs, miR-92a-3p was the most abundant miRNA in the exosomes of highly metastatic HCC cells. Exosomal miR92a-3p was also found enriched in the plasma of HCC patient-derived xenograft mice (PDX) model with high-metastatic potential. Exosomal miR-92a-3p promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in recipient cancer cells via targeting PTEN and regulating its downstream Akt/Snail signaling. Furthermore, through mRNA sequencing in HCC cells with different metastatic potentials and predicting potential transcription factors of miR92a-3p, upregulated transcript factors E2F1 and c-Myc were found in high-metastatic HCC cells promote the expression of cellular and exosomal miR-92a-3p in HCC by directly binding the promoter of its host gene, miR17HG . Clinical data showed that a high plasma exosomal miR92a-3p level was correlated with shortened overall survival and disease-free survival, indicating poor prognosis in HCC patients. In conclusion, hepatoma-derived exosomal miR92a-3p plays a critical role in the EMT progression and promoting metastasis by inhibiting PTEN and activating Akt/Snail signaling. Exosomal miR92a-3p is a potential predictive biomarker for HCC metastasis, and this may provoke the development of novel therapeutic and preventing strategies against metastasis of HCC.

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