Extracellular vesicles and reproduction-promotion of successful pregnancy

Cell Mol Immunol. 2014 Nov;11(6):548-63. doi: 10.1038/cmi.2014.42. Epub 2014 Jun 23.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are membrane-bound complexes secreted from cells under both physiological and pathological conditions. They contain proteins, nucleic acids and lipids and act as messengers for cell-cell communication and signalling, particularly between immune cells. EV research is a rapidly evolving and expanding field, and it appears that all biological fluids contain very large numbers of EVs; they are produced from all cells that have been studied to date, and are known to have roles in several reproductive processes. This review analyses the evidence for the role of EVs throughout human reproduction, starting with the paternal and maternal gametes, followed by the establishment and continuation of successful pregnancies, with specific focus, where possible, on the interaction of EVs with the maternal immune system. Importantly, variations within the EV populations are identified in various reproductive disorders, such as pre-term labour and pre-eclampsia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extracellular Space
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / physiopathology*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Pregnancy* / physiology
  • Reproduction* / physiology
  • Secretory Vesicles / physiology*