Exosomes: a common pathway for a specialized function

J Biochem. 2006 Jul;140(1):13-21. doi: 10.1093/jb/mvj128.


Exosomes are membrane vesicles that are released by cells upon fusion of multivesicular bodies with the plasma membrane. Their molecular composition reflects their origin in endosomes as intraluminal vesicles. In addition to a common set of membrane and cytosolic molecules, exosomes harbor unique subsets of proteins linked to cell type-associated functions. Exosome secretion participates in the eradication of obsolete proteins but several findings, essentially in the immune system, indicate that exosomes constitute a potential mode of intercellular communication. Release of exosomes by tumor cells and their implication in the propagation of unconventional pathogens such as prions suggests their participation in pathological situations. These findings open up new therapeutic and diagnostic strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / physiology
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Cytoplasmic Vesicles / chemistry
  • Cytoplasmic Vesicles / physiology*
  • Cytoplasmic Vesicles / virology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Exocytosis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • PrPC Proteins / physiology
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Reticulocytes / physiology


  • Biomarkers
  • PrPC Proteins