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Microparticle conferred microRNA profiles - implications in the transfer and dominance of cancer traits

Ritu Jaiswal12, Frederick Luk1, Joyce Gong12, Jean-Marie Mathys3, Georges Emile Raymond Grau2 and Mary Bebawy1*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Pharmacy, Graduate School of Health Level 13, Building 1, University of Technology, Sydney, 123 Broadway, NSW, 2007, Australia

2 Vascular Immunology Unit, Sydney Medical School and Bosch Institute, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia

3 Department of Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center Farmington, CT, 06032, Connecticut, USA

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Molecular Cancer 2012, 11:37  doi:10.1186/1476-4598-11-37

Published: 8 June 2012



Microparticles (MPs) are membrane vesicles which are released from normal and malignant cells following a process of budding and detachment from donor cells. MPs contain surface antigens, proteins and genetic material and serve as vectors of intercellular communication. MPs comprise the major source of systemic RNA including microRNA (miRNA), the aberrant expression of which appears to be associated with stage, progression and spread of many cancers. Our previous study showed that MPs carry both transcripts and miRNAs associated with the acquisition of multidrug resistance in cancer.


Herein, we expand on our previous finding and demonstrate that MPs carry the transcripts of the membrane vesiculation machinery (floppase and scramblase) as well as nucleic acids encoding the enzymes essential for microRNA biogenesis (Drosha, Dicer and Argonaute). We also demonstrate using microarray miRNA profiling analysis, the selective packaging of miRNAs (miR-1228*, miR-1246, miR-1308, miR-149*, miR-455-3p, miR-638 and miR-923) within the MP cargo upon release from the donor cells.


These miRNAs are present in both haematological and non-haematological cancer cells and are involved in pathways implicated in cancer pathogenesis, membrane vesiculation and cascades regulated by ABC transporters. Our recent findings reinforce our earlier reports that MP transfer ‘re-templates’ recipient cells so as to reflect donor cell traits. We now demonstrate that this process is likely to occur via a process of selective packaging of nucleic acid species, including regulatory nucleic acids upon MP vesiculation. These findings have significant implications in understanding the cellular basis governing the intercellular acquisition and dominance of deleterious traits in cancers.

Cancer; Microarray; Microparticles; MicroRNA; Multidrug resistance; Selective packaging