Cancer stem cells and exosome signaling
Exosomes have been recognized as mediators of intercellular communication among different cell populations in various biological model systems. By transfer of signaling molecules such as proteins, lipids, and RNAs between different cell types, exosomes are implicated in both physiological and pathological processes. The tumor microenvironment consists of multiple types of cells including adult stem cells, cancer stem cells, and stromal cells. These cells are known to intercommunicate with each other thereby modulating tumor progression. Recent studies have provided evidence demonstrating that exosomes mediate the interactions among different types of cells within the tumor microenvironment, providing new insight into how these cells interact with each other through exosome signaling. This review is focused on recent studies that have examined exosome-mediated intercommunication among cancer stem cells, adult stem cells, cancer cells, and stromal cells within the tumor microenvironment. Based on the current literature, it seems clear that adult stem cells and cancer stem cells secret exosomes that can be transferred to their surrounding cells thereby modulating cancer progression. Likewise, cancer cells and stromal cells also release exosomes that can be taken up by cancer stem cells or adult stem cells, leading to alterations to their phenotype. The molecular mechanisms and biological consequences of the exosome-mediated interactions of these cells remain to be further elucidated. A better understanding of how exosomes mediate intercellular communication in the tumor microenvironment and the specific biological consequences of these interactions will likely offer new opportunities in the development of diagnostic or therapeutic strategies against cancer.