Analysis of the RNA content of the exosomes derived from blood serum and urine and its potential as biomarkers

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014 Sep 26;369(1652):20130502. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0502.


Exosomes are tiny vesicles (30-150 nm) constantly secreted by all healthy and abnormal cells, and found in abundance in all body fluids. These vesicles, loaded with unique RNA and protein cargo, have a wide range of biological functions, including cell-to-cell communication and signalling. As such, exosomes hold tremendous potential as biomarkers and could lead to the development of minimally invasive diagnostics and next generation therapies within the next few years. Here, we describe the strategies for isolation of exosomes from human blood serum and urine, characterization of their RNA cargo by sequencing, and present the initial data on exosome labelling and uptake tracing in a cell culture model. The value of exosomes for clinical applications is discussed with an emphasis on their potential for diagnosing and treating neurodegenerative diseases and brain cancer.

Keywords: biomarker; circulating RNA; exosomes; extracellular vesicles.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Exosomes / genetics*
  • Exosomes / ultrastructure
  • Fluorescence
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Serum / chemistry*
  • Urine / chemistry*


  • Biomarkers
  • RNA