Biogenesis, secretion, and intercellular interactions of exosomes and other extracellular vesicles

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2014:30:255-89. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-101512-122326. Epub 2014 Aug 21.


In the 1980s, exosomes were described as vesicles of endosomal origin secreted from reticulocytes. Interest increased around these extracellular vesicles, as they appeared to participate in several cellular processes. Exosomes bear proteins, lipids, and RNAs, mediating intercellular communication between different cell types in the body, and thus affecting normal and pathological conditions. Only recently, scientists acknowledged the difficulty of separating exosomes from other types of extracellular vesicles, which precludes a clear attribution of a particular function to the different types of secreted vesicles. To shed light into this complex but expanding field of science, this review focuses on the definition of exosomes and other secreted extracellular vesicles. Their biogenesis, their secretion, and their subsequent fate are discussed, as their functions rely on these important processes.

Keywords: cell-cell communication; ectosomes; endosomes; microparticles; microvesicles; multivesicular bodies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / physiology*
  • Centrifugation, Density Gradient
  • Cytological Techniques
  • Endosomes / physiology
  • Endosomes / ultrastructure
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Eukaryotic Cells / ultrastructure
  • Exosomes / physiology
  • Extracellular Fluid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Fusion
  • Membrane Lipids / physiology
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prokaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Prokaryotic Cells / ultrastructure
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reticulocytes / metabolism
  • SNARE Proteins / physiology
  • Transport Vesicles / physiology*
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / physiology


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SNARE Proteins
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins