MicroRNAs (miRNAs) can efficiently regulate gene expression by targeting mRNA to cause mRNA cleavage or translational repression. Growing evidence indicates that miRNAs exist not only in cells but also in a variety of body fluids, which stimulates substantial interest in the transport mechanism and regulating process of extracellular miRNAs. This article reviews the basic biogenesis of miRNAs in detail to explore the origin of extracellular miRNAs. Different miRNA transporters have been summarized (e.g., exosomes, microvesicles, apoptosis bodies, and RNA-binding proteins). In addition, we discuss the regulators affecting miRNA transport (e.g., ATP and ceramide) and the selection mechanism for different miRNA transporters. Studies about miRNA transporters and the transport mechanism are new and developing. With the progress of the research, new functions of extracellular miRNAs may be uncovered in the future.
Copyright © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.