Radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE) describes a set of biological effects in non-targeted cells that receive bystander signals from the irradiated cells. RIBE brings potential hazards to adjacent normal tissues in radiotherapy, and imparts a higher risk than previously thought. Excessive release of some substances from irradiated cells into extracellular microenvironment has a deleterious effect. For example, cytokines and reactive oxygen species have been confirmed to be involved in RIBE process via extracellular medium or gap junctions. However, RIBE-mediating signals and intercellular communication pathways are incompletely characterized. Here, we first identified a set of differentially expressed miRNAs in the exosomes collected from 2 Gy irradiated human bronchial epithelial BEP2D cells, from which miR-7-5p was found to induce autophagy in recipient cells. This exosome-mediated autophagy was significantly attenuated by miR-7-5p inhibitor. Moreover, our data demonstrated that autophagy induced by exosomal miR-7-5p was associated with EGFR/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway. Together, our results support the involvement of secretive exosomes in propagation of RIBE signals to bystander cells. The exosomes-containing miR-7-5p is a crucial mediator of bystander autophagy.
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