Exosomes/microvesicles as a mechanism of cell-to-cell communication

Kidney Int. 2010 Nov;78(9):838-48. doi: 10.1038/ki.2010.278. Epub 2010 Aug 11.


Microvesicles (MVs) are circular fragments of membrane released from the endosomal compartment as exosomes or shed from the surface membranes of most cell types. An increasing body of evidence indicates that they play a pivotal role in cell-to-cell communication. Indeed, they may directly stimulate target cells by receptor-mediated interactions or may transfer from the cell of origin to various bioactive molecules including membrane receptors, proteins, mRNAs, microRNAs, and organelles. In this review we discuss the pleiotropic biologic effects of MVs that are relevant for communication among cells in physiological and pathological conditions. In particular, we discuss their potential involvement in inflammation, renal disease, and tumor progression, and the evidence supporting a bidirectional exchange of genetic information between stem and injured cells. The transfer of gene products from injured cells may explain stem cell functional and phenotypic changes without the need of transdifferentiation into tissue cells. On the other hand, transfer of gene products from stem cells may reprogram injured cells to repair damaged tissues.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cell Communication* / genetics
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Kidney Diseases / genetics
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction* / genetics
  • Stem Cells / metabolism