Circulating extracellular vesicles in lung cancer patients are not enriched in tumor-derived DNA fragments as revealed by whole genome sequencing

Extracellular Vesicles

Abstract Liquid biopsies contain multiple analytes that can be mined to improve the detection and management of cancer. Beyond cell-free DNA (cfDNA), mutations have been detected in DNA associated with extracellular vesicles (EV-DNA). The genome-wide composition and structure of EV-DNA are poorly characterized, and it remains undecided whether circulating EVs are enriched in tumor signal compared to unfractionated cfDNA. Here, using whole genome sequencing from selected lung cancer patients with a high cfDNA tumor content (>5%), we determined that the tumor fraction and heterogeneity are comparable between DNA associated with EVs and matched plasma cfDNA. DNA in EV fractions, obtained with standardized size-exclusion chromatography, are comprised of short ∼150-180 bp fragments and long >1000 bp fragments that are poor in tumor signal. Other fractions only exhibit short fragments with similar tumor DNA content. The composition in bases at the end of EV-DNA fragments, as well as their fragmentation patterns are similar to plasma cfDNA. Mitochondrial DNA is relatively enriched in EV fractions. Our results highlight that cfDNA in plasma is of dual nature, either bound to proteins (including the nucleosome) but also associated to EV. cfDNA associated to small EV (including exosomes) is however not preferentially enriched in tumor signal.

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Cigarette smoke (CS) represents one of the most relevant environmental risk factors for several chronic pathologies. Tissue damage caused by CS exposure is mediated, at least in part, by oxidative stress induced by its toxic and pro-oxidant components. Evidence demonstrates that extracellular vesicles (EVs) released by various cell types exposed to CS extract (CSE) are characterized by altered biochemical cargo and gained pathological properties. In the present study, we evaluated the content of oxidized proteins and phospholipid fatty acid profiles of EVs released by human bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells treated with CSE. This specific molecular characterization has hitherto not been performed. After confirmation that CSE reduces viability of BEAS-2B cells and elevates intracellular ROS levels, in a dose-dependent manner, we demonstrated that 24 h exposure at 1% CSE, a concentration that only slight modifies cell viability but increases ROS levels, was able to increase carbonylated protein levels in cells and released EVs. The release of oxidatively modified proteins via EVs might represent a mechanism used by cells to remove toxic proteins in order to avoid their intracellular overloading. Moreover, 1% CSE induced only few changes in the fatty acid asset in BEAS-2B cell membrane phospholipids, whereas several rearrangements were observed in EVs released by CSE-treated cells. The impact of changes in acyl chain composition of CSE-EVs accounted for the increased saturation levels of phospholipids, a membrane parameter that might influence EV stability, uptake and, at least in part, EV-mediated biological effects. The present in vitro study adds new information concerning the biochemical composition of CSE-related EVs, useful to predict their biological effects on target cells. Furthermore, the information regarding the presence of oxidized proteins and the specific membrane features of CSE-related EVs can be useful to define the utilization of circulating EVs as marker for diagnosing of CS-induced lung damage and/or CS-related diseases.

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