Tumour microvesicles contain retrotransposon elements and amplified oncogene sequences

Leonora Balaj, Ryan Lessard, Lixin Dai, Yoon-Jae Cho, Scott L. Pomeroy, Xandra O. Breakefield, Johan Skog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

529 Scopus citations


Tumour cells release an abundance of microvesicles containing a selected set of proteins and RNAs. Here, we show that tumour microvesicles also carry DNA, which reflects the genetic status of the tumour, including amplification of the oncogene c-Myc. We also find amplified c-Myc in serum microvesicles from tumour-bearing mice. Further, we find remarkably high levels of retrotransposon RNA transcripts, especially for some human endogenous retroviruses, such as LINE-1 and Alu retrotransposon elements, in tumour microvesicles and these transposable elements could be transferred to normal cells. These findings expand the nucleic acid content of tumour microvesicles to include: elevated levels of specific coding and non-coding RNA and DNA, mutated and amplified oncogene sequences and transposable elements. Thus, tumour microvesicles contain a repertoire of genetic information available for horizontal gene transfer and potential use as blood biomarkers for cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberncomms1180
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 8 2011
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

Cite this

Balaj, L., Lessard, R., Dai, L., Cho, Y-J., Pomeroy, S. L., Breakefield, X. O., & Skog, J. (2011). Tumour microvesicles contain retrotransposon elements and amplified oncogene sequences. Nature communications, 2(1), [ncomms1180]. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms1180