Exosomes as intercellular signalosomes and pharmacological effectors

Biochem Pharmacol. 2011 May 15;81(10):1171-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2011.02.011. Epub 2011 Mar 1.


Cell secretion is a general process involved in various biological responses. Exosomes are part of this process and have gained considerable scientific interest in the past five years. Several steps through investigations across the last 20 years can explain this interest. First characterized during reticulocyte maturation, they were next evidenced as a key player in the immune response and cancer immunotherapy. More recently they were reported as vectors of mRNAs, miRNAs and also lipid mediators able to act on target cells. They are the only type of vesicles released from an intracellular compartment from cells in viable conditions. They appear as a vectorized signaling system operating from inside a donor cell towards either the periphery, the cytosol, or possibly to the nucleus of target cells. Exosomes from normal cells trigger positive effects, whereas those from pathological ones, such as tumor cells or infected ones may trigger non-positive health effects. Therefore regulating the biogenesis and secretion of exosomes appear as a pharmacological challenge to intervene in various pathophysiologies. Exosome biogenesis and molecular content, interaction with target cells, utilisation as biomarkers, and functional effects in various pathophysiologies are considered in this review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Communicable Diseases / metabolism
  • Exosomes / immunology
  • Exosomes / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein Transport
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reticulocytes / cytology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Escape


  • MicroRNAs
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger