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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Secretion of extracellular hsp90α via exosomes increases cancer cell motility: a role for plasminogen activation

Jessica McCready1, Jessica D Sims1, Doug Chan2 and Daniel G Jay1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physiology, Tufts University, 136 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111, USA

2 Protech Laboratory Inc, Houston, TX 77054, USA

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:294  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-294

Published: 16 June 2010



Metastasis is a multi-step process that is responsible for the majority of deaths in cancer patients. Current treatments are not effective in targeting metastasis. The molecular chaperone hsp90α is secreted from invasive cancer cells and activates MMP-2 to enhance invasiveness, required for the first step in metastasis.


We analyzed the morphology and motility of invasive cancer cells that were treated with exogenous exosomes in the presence or absence of hsp90α. We performed mass spectrometry and immunoprecipitation to identify plasminogen as a potential client protein of extracellular hsp90α. Plasmin activation assays and migration assays were performed to test if plasminogen is activated by extracellular hsp90α and has a role in migration.


We found that hsp90α is secreted in exosomes in invasive cancer cells and it contributes to their invasive nature. We identified a novel interaction between hsp90α and tissue plasminogen activator that together with annexin II, also found in exosomes, activates plasmin. Extracellular hsp90α promotes plasmin activation as well as increases plasmin dependent cell motility.


Our data indicate that hsp90α is released by invasive cancer cells via exosomes and implicates hsp90α in activating plasmin, a second protease that acts in cancer cell invasion.