In multicellular organisms, distant cells can exchange information by sending out signals composed of single molecules or, as increasingly exemplified in the literature, via complex packets stuffed with a selection of proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, called extracellular vesicles (EVs; also known as exosomes and microvesicles, among other names). This Review covers some of the most striking functions described for EV secretion but also presents the limitations on our knowledge of their physiological roles. While there are initial indications that EV-mediated pathways operate in vivo, the actual nature of the EVs involved in these effects still needs to be clarified. Here, we focus on the context of tumor cells and their microenvironment, but similar results and challenges apply to all patho/physiological systems in which EV-mediated communication is proposed to take place.
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