Abstract: Background Secreted microRNAs (miRNAs) can serve as promising diagnostic markers for colorectal cancer (CRC). Herein, we evaluated the potential clinical significance of a signature of four circulating serum-derived miRNAs in CRC. We also demonstrated that extracellular vesicles (EVs) containing miR-221-3p could facilitate endothelial cell angiogenesis. Methods The expressions of four circulating serum-derived miRNAs (miR-19a-3p, miR-203-3p, miR-221-3p, and let-7f-5p) were measured by real-time quantitative PCR, and their associations with lymph node metastasis were determined in CRC patients. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis was used to determine their diagnostic accuracy. EVs were isolated and characterized from the conditioned media of human CRC cells (HCT116 and Caco2). Cell proliferation, transwell migration, and tube formation assays were performed to investigate the pro-angiogenic effect of miR-221-3p transferred by CRC-EVs into the endothelial cells. In silico analysis was used to show the regulatory functions of miR-221-3p on SOCS3, validated by luciferase and Western blotting assays. Results The expression levels of serum-derived miR-19a-3p, miR-203-3p, miR-221-3p, and let-7f-5p were significantly higher in CRC than in healthy individuals. The expression of miR-19a-3p, miR-203-3p, and miR-221-3p were positively correlated with the lymph node metastasis status. Moreover, SOCS3 was identified as a direct target of miR-221-3p and the secreted miR-221-3p shuttled by CRC-EVs regulated STAT3/VEGFR-2 signaling axis by targeting SOCS3 in endothelial cells. CRC-EVs promoted endothelial cell proliferation, migration, and the formation of vessel-like structures. The proangiogenic effect of CRC-EVs on the cells was recapitulated by miR-221-3p overexpression, showing the importance of EVs-derived miR-221-3p in promoting endothelial cell angiogenesis. Conclusion We introduced a signature of four-circulating miRNAs (miR-19a-3p, miR-203-3p, miR-221-3p, and let-7f-5p) as a novel diagnostic biomarker for CRC. Besides, we revealed that miR-221-3p induces endothelial cell angiogenesis in vitro by targeting SOCS3.
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