Proteomic profiling of exosomes: current perspectives

Proteomics. 2008 Oct;8(19):4083-99. doi: 10.1002/pmic.200800109.


Exosomes are 40-100 nm membrane vesicles of endocytic origin secreted by most cell types in vitro. Recent studies have shown that exosomes are also found in vivo in body fluids such as blood, urine, amniotic fluid, malignant ascites, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, synovial fluid, and breast milk. While the biological function of exosomes is still unclear, they can mediate communication between cells, facilitating processes such as antigen presentation and in trans signaling to neighboring cells. Exosome-like vesicles identified in Drosophila (referred to as argosomes) may be potential vehicles for the spread of morphogens in epithelia. The advent of current MS-based proteomic technologies has contributed significantly to our understanding of the molecular composition of exosomes. In addition to a common set of membrane and cytosolic proteins, it is becoming increasingly apparent that exosomes harbor distinct subsets of proteins that may be linked to cell-type associated functions. The secretion of exosomes by tumor cells and their implication in the transport and propagation of infectious cargo such as prions and retroviruses such as HIV suggest their participation in pathological situations. Interestingly, the recent observation that exosomes contain both mRNA and microRNA, which can be transferred to another cell, and be functional in that new environment, is an exciting new development in the unraveling exosome saga. The present review aims to summarize the physical properties that define exosomes as specific cell-type secreted membrane vesicles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Exosomes / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Models, Biological
  • Protein Transport
  • Proteomics / methods*


  • Membrane Proteins