Exosomes: endosomal-derived vesicles shipping extracellular messages

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2004 Aug;16(4):415-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ceb.2004.06.003.


Exosomes are membrane vesicles released into the extracellular environment upon exocytic fusion of multivesicular endosomes with the cell surface. They have a particular composition reflecting their origin in endosomes as intraluminal vesicles. In vitro and in vivo studies support the contribution of exosomes to an acellular mode of communication, leading to intercellular transfer of molecules. Exosomes may have regulatory functions in the immune system and their application in cancer immunotherapy is promising. The mechanisms involved in exosome secretion and interaction with target cells are as yet unclear. A better understanding of these mechanisms is also essential to determine the link between exosomes and retroviruses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / metabolism
  • Biological Transport*
  • Cell Fusion
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cytoplasmic Vesicles / immunology
  • Cytoplasmic Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • Endosomes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transport Vesicles* / physiology*
  • Transport Vesicles* / ultrastructure