C. elegans ciliated sensory neurons release extracellular vesicles that function in animal communication

Curr Biol. 2014 Mar 3;24(5):519-25. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.002. Epub 2014 Feb 13.


Cells release extracellular vesicles (ECVs) that play important roles in intercellular communication and may mediate a broad range of physiological and pathological processes. Many fundamental aspects of ECV biogenesis and signaling have yet to be determined, with ECV detection being a challenge and obstacle due to the small size (100 nm) of the ECVs. We developed an in vivo system to visualize the dynamic release of GFP-labeled ECVs. We show here that specific Caenorhabdidits elegans ciliated sensory neurons shed and release ECVs containing GFP-tagged polycystins LOV-1 and PKD-2. These ECVs are also abundant in the lumen surrounding the cilium. Electron tomography and genetic analysis indicate that ECV biogenesis occurs via budding from the plasma membrane at the ciliary base and not via fusion of multivesicular bodies. Intraflagellar transport and kinesin-3 KLP-6 are required for environmental release of PKD-2::GFP-containing ECVs. ECVs isolated from wild-type animals induce male tail-chasing behavior, while ECVs isolated from klp-6 animals and lacking PKD-2::GFP do not. We conclude that environmentally released ECVs play a role in animal communication and mating-related behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cilia / physiology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Kinesins / genetics
  • Kinesins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Secretory Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • TRPP Cation Channels / genetics
  • TRPP Cation Channels / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • LOV-1 protein, C elegans
  • PKD-2 protein, C elegans
  • TRPP Cation Channels
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • KLP-6 protein, C elegans
  • Kinesins