Biological functions and biogenesis of secreted bacterial outer membrane vesicles

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2010;64:163-84. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.091208.073413.


Gram-negative bacteria produce outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) that contain biologically active proteins and perform diverse biological processes. Unlike other secretion mechanisms, OMVs enable bacteria to secrete insoluble molecules in addition to and in complex with soluble material. OMVs allow enzymes to reach distant targets in a concentrated, protected, and targeted form. OMVs also play roles in bacterial survival: Their production is a bacterial stress response and important for nutrient acquisition, biofilm development, and pathogenesis. Key characteristics of OMV biogenesis include outward bulging of areas lacking membrane-peptidoglycan bonds, the capacity to upregulate vesicle production without also losing outer membrane integrity, enrichment or exclusion of certain proteins and lipids, and membrane fission without direct energy from ATP/GTP hydrolysis. Comparisons of similar budding mechanisms from diverse biological domains have provided new insight into evaluating mechanisms for outer membrane vesiculation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Secretory Vesicles / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins