Novel biomarkers for HCC surveillance in cirrhotic patients are urgently needed. Exosomes and their lipid content in particular represent potentially valuable noninvasive diagnostic biomarkers. We isolated exosomes from plasma of 72 cirrhotic patients, including 31 with HCC. Exosomes and unfractionated plasma were processed for untargeted lipidomics using ultra–high-resolution mass spectrometry. A total of 2,864 lipid species, belonging to 52 classes, were identified. Both exosome fractionation and HCC diagnosis had significant impact on the lipid profiles. Ten lipid classes were enriched in HCC exosomes compared with non-HCC exosomes. Dilysocardiolipins were detected in 35% of the HCC exosomes but in none of the non-HCC exosomes (P < 0.001). Cardiolipins and sphingosines had the highest differential effects (fold change of 133.08, q ¼ 0.001 and 38.57, q < 0.001, respectively). In logistic regression analysis, high abundances of exosomal sphingosines, dilysocardiolipins, lysophosphatidylserines, and (O-acyl)-1-hydroxy fatty acids were strongly associated with HCC [OR (95% confidence interval (CI)), 271.1 (14.0–5,251.9), P < 0.001; 46.5 (2.3–939.9), P ¼ 0.012; 14.9 (4.3–51.2), P < 0.001; 10.3 (3.2–33.1), P < 0.001]. Four lipid classes were depleted in HCC exosomes compared with non-HCC exosomes. In logistic regression analysis, lack of detection of sulfatides and acylGlcSitosterol esters was strongly associated with HCC [OR (95% CI): 215.5 (11.5–4,035.9), P < 0.001; 26.7 (1.4–528.4), P ¼ 0.031]. These HCC-associated changes in lipid composition of exosomes reflected alterations in glycerophospholipid metabolism, retrograde endocannabinoid signaling, and ferroptosis. In conclusion, this study identified candidate biomarkers for early detection of HCC as well as altered pathways in exosomes that may contribute to tumor development and progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research