Extracellular vesicles in diagnosis and therapy of kidney diseases

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2016 Nov 1;311(5):F844-F851. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00429.2016. Epub 2016 Aug 31.


Extracellular vesicles (EV) are endogenously produced, membrane-bound vesicles that contain various molecules. Depending on their size and origins, EVs are classified into apoptotic bodies, microvesicles, and exosomes. A fundamental function of EVs is to mediate intercellular communication. In kidneys, recent research has begun to suggest a role of EVs, especially exosomes, in cell-cell communication by transferring proteins, mRNAs, and microRNAs to recipient cells as nanovectors. EVs may mediate the cross talk between various cell types within kidneys for the maintenance of tissue homeostasis. They may also mediate the cross talk between kidneys and other organs under physiological and pathological conditions. EVs have been implicated in the pathogenesis of both acute kidney injury and chronic kidney diseases, including renal fibrosis, end-stage renal disease, glomerular diseases, and diabetic nephropathy. The release of EVs with specific molecular contents into urine and plasma may be useful biomarkers for kidney disease. In addition, EVs produced by cultured cells may have therapeutic effects for these diseases. However, the role of EVs in kidney diseases is largely unclear, and the mechanism underlying EV production and secretion remains elusive. In this review, we introduce the basics of EVs and then analyze the present information about the involvement, diagnostic value, and therapeutic potential of EVs in major kidney diseases.

Keywords: acute kidney injury; biomarker; chronic kidney disease; exosome; therapy.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / diagnosis*
  • Acute Kidney Injury / metabolism
  • Acute Kidney Injury / therapy*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / metabolism
  • Exosomes / metabolism
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / metabolism
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / therapy*


  • Biomarkers