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The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12943-018-0834-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Conventional tumor markers for non-invasive diagnosis of gastric cancer (GC) exhibit insufficient sensitivity and specificity to facilitate detection of early gastric cancer (EGC). We aimed to identify EGC-specific exosomal lncRNA biomarkers that are highly sensitive and stable for the non-invasive diagnosis of EGC. Hence, in the present study, exosomes from the plasma of five healthy individuals and ten stage I GC patients and from culture media of four human primary stomach epithelial cells and four gastric cancer cells (GCCs) were isolated. Exosomal RNA profiling was performed using RNA sequencing to identify EGC-specific exosomal lncRNAs. A total of 79 and 285 exosomal RNAs were expressed at significantly higher levels in stage I GC patients and GCCs, respectively, than that in normal controls. Through combinational analysis of the RNA sequencing results, we found two EGC-specific exosomal lncRNAs, lncUEGC1 and lncUEGC2, which were further confirmed to be remarkably up-regulated in exosomes derived from EGC patients and GCCs. Furthermore, stability testing demonstrates that almost all the plasma lncUEGC1 was encapsulated within exosomes and thus protected from RNase degradation. The diagnostic accuracy of exosomal lncUEGC1 was evaluated, and lncUEGC1 exhibited AUC values of 0.8760 and 0.8406 in discriminating EGC patients from healthy individuals and those with premalignant chronic atrophic gastritis, respectively, which was higher than the diagnostic accuracy of carcinoembryonic antigen. Consequently, exosomal lncUEGC1 may be promising in the development of highly sensitive, stable, and non-invasive biomarkers for EGC diagnosis.