Extracellular Vesicles: Composition, Biological Relevance, and Methods of Study

Bioscience. 2015 Aug 1;65(8):783-797. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biv084. Epub 2015 Jun 26.


The release of extracellular vesicles (EVs), including exosomes and microvesicles, is a phenomenon shared by many cell types as a means of communicating with other cells and also potentially removing cell contents. The cargo of EVs includes the proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and membrane receptors of the cells from which they originate. EVs released into the extracellular space can enter body fluids and potentially reach distant tissues. Once taken up by neighboring and/or distal cells, EVs can transfer functional cargo that may alter the status of recipient cells, thereby contributing to both physiological and pathological processes. In this article, we will focus on EV composition, mechanisms of uptake, and their biological effects on recipient cells. We will also discuss established and recently developed methods used to study EVs, including isolation, quantification, labeling and imaging protocols, as well as RNA analysis.

Keywords: exosomes; extracellular vesicles; intercellular communication; methods; microvesicles.