Affiliation: Research Center for Translational Medicine, Key Laboratory of Arrhythmias of the Ministry of Education, East Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, 150 Jimo Road, Shanghai 200120, China.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are thought to regulate tumor progression and metastasis via direct interaction with target genes within cells. Emerging evidence has demonstrated the secretion of miRNAs into environment via cancer cell exosomes, called “exosomal shuttle small RNA”. Microenvironmental miRNAs are important mediators of cell-to-cell communication, and they play important roles in regulating cancer metastasis. RNA analysis indicates enrichment of the miRNA population in cell-culturing medium. miRNA-conditioned medium is able to mediate the function of miRNAs in regulating cancer cell migration and invasion. Here we combine our recent work with literature discussing multiple mechanisms through which exosomal miRNAs regulate cancer cell migration, invasion and metastasis. We summarize a heterotypic signaling pathway by which miRNA regulates the cellular secretion and tumor microenvironment in control of breast cancer cell migration and invasion. In conclusion, exosomal miRNAs are able to regulate cancer metastasis via heterotypic signals in the microenvironment.