Introduction to Extracellular Vesicles: Biogenesis, RNA Cargo Selection, Content, Release, and Uptake

Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2016 Apr;36(3):301-12. doi: 10.1007/s10571-016-0366-z. Epub 2016 Apr 6.


Extracellular vesicles are a heterogeneous group of membrane-limited vesicles loaded with various proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids. Release of extracellular vesicles from its cell of origin occurs either through the outward budding of the plasma membrane or through the inward budding of the endosomal membrane, resulting in the formation of multivesicular bodies, which release vesicles upon fusion with the plasma membrane. The release of vesicles can facilitate intercellular communication by contact with or by internalization of contents, either by fusion with the plasma membrane or by endocytosis into "recipient" cells. Although the interest in extracellular vesicle research is increasing, there are still no real standards in place to separate or classify the different types of vesicles. This review provides an introduction into this expanding and complex field of research focusing on the biogenesis, nucleic acid cargo loading, content, release, and uptake of extracellular vesicles.

Keywords: Biogenesis; Cargo selection; Exosomes; Extracellular vesicles; Microvesicles; RNA.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Exosomes / metabolism
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • RNA / metabolism*


  • RNA