Transcytosis: crossing cellular barriers

Physiol Rev. 2003 Jul;83(3):871-932. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00001.2003.


Transcytosis, the vesicular transport of macromolecules from one side of a cell to the other, is a strategy used by multicellular organisms to selectively move material between two environments without altering the unique compositions of those environments. In this review, we summarize our knowledge of the different cell types using transcytosis in vivo, the variety of cargo moved, and the diverse pathways for delivering that cargo. We evaluate in vitro models that are currently being used to study transcytosis. Caveolae-mediated transcytosis by endothelial cells that line the microvasculature and carry circulating plasma proteins to the interstitium is explained in more detail, as is clathrin-mediated transcytosis of IgA by epithelial cells of the digestive tract. The molecular basis of vesicle traffic is discussed, with emphasis on the gaps and uncertainties in our understanding of the molecules and mechanisms that regulate transcytosis. In our view there is still much to be learned about this fundamental process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Transport Vesicles / physiology*