Intercellular communication by exosomes in placenta: a possible role in cell fusion?

Placenta. 2014 May;35(5):297-302. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2014.02.009. Epub 2014 Mar 3.


Exosomes are nanovesicles released from viable cells and have attracted increasing interest due to their role in intercellular communication and biological functions. More recently exosomes have been shown to be released by trophoblasts and to carry molecules involved in placental physiology. This involves proteins such as fibronectin, syncytin, Wnt/βcatenin-related molecules, galectin-3, and HLA-G, but also bioactive lipids such as the immunosuppressive PGE2, the PPARγ ligand 15d-PGJ2, or microRNAs that appear as immunomodulators in pregnancy and are able to confer viral resistance. Exosome trafficking within the placental micro-environment potentially links these nanovesicles to the organization of the placental interface, fetal tolerance, viral protection, and possibly mother-fetus communication. Because of the presence of immunocompetent exosomes in breast-milk, they appear as an essential component in reproduction. Several aspects of the "exosome pathway" are described in the review, from general aspects related to their origin, their characteristics and their ability to vectorize material between cells, to more specific functions involved in placental physiology such as their putative role in triggering cell fusion required for syncytiotrophoblast formation.

Keywords: Extracellular vesicles; Fusion; HLA-G; Multivesicular body; PPARgamma; Prostaglandins; Syncythin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell Fusion
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prostaglandins / metabolism
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism


  • Prostaglandins