Exosomes in Viral Disease

Neurotherapeutics. 2016 Jul;13(3):535-46. doi: 10.1007/s13311-016-0450-6.


Viruses have evolved many mechanisms by which to evade and subvert the immune system to ensure survival and persistence. However, for each method undertaken by the immune system for pathogen removal, there is a counteracting mechanism utilized by pathogens. The new and emerging role of microvesicles in immune intercellular communication and function is no different. Viruses across many different families have evolved to insert viral components in exosomes, a subtype of microvesicle, with many varying downstream effects. When assessed cumulatively, viral antigens in exosomes increase persistence through cloaking viral genomes, decoying the immune system, and even by increasing viral infection in uninfected cells. Exosomes therefore represent a source of viral antigen that can be used as a biomarker for disease and targeted for therapy in the control and eradication of these disorders. With the rise in the persistence of new and reemerging viruses like Ebola and Zika, exploring the role of exosomes become more important than ever.

Keywords: ESCRT; Exosomes; microvesicles; multivesicular bodies; “back fusion”.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bunyaviridae Infections / physiopathology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / physiopathology
  • Exosomes / physiology
  • Exosomes / virology*
  • HIV Infections / physiopathology
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / physiology
  • Humans
  • Papillomaviridae / physiology
  • Virus Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Virus Physiological Phenomena*