Small extracellular vesicle DNA-mediated horizontal gene transfer as a driving force for tumor evolution: Facts and riddles

Authors: Gábor Valcz, Beáta Újvári, Edit I. Buzás, et al.



The basis of the conventional gene-centric view on tumor evolution is that vertically inherited mutations largely define the properties of tumor cells. In recent years, however, accumulating evidence shows that both the tumor cells and their microenvironment may acquire external, non-vertically inherited genetic properties via horizontal gene transfer (HGT), particularly through small extracellular vesicles (sEVs).

Many phases of sEV-mediated HGT have been described, such as DNA packaging into small vesicles, their release, uptake by recipient cells, and incorporation of sEV-DNA into the recipient genome to modify the phenotype and properties of cells. Recent techniques in sEV separation, genome sequencing and editing, as well as the identification of new secretion mechanisms, shed light on a number of additional details of this phenomenon.

Here, we discuss the key features of this form of gene transfer and make an attempt to draw relevant conclusions on the contribution of HGT to tumor evolution.