Intercellular communication via cell-released vesicles is a very important process for both normal and tumor cells. Cell communication may involve exosomes, small vesicles of endocytic origin that are released by all types of cells and are found in abundance in body fluids, including blood, saliva, urine, and breast milk. Exosomes have been shown to carry lipids, proteins, mRNAs, non-coding RNAs, and even DNA out of cells. They are more than simply molecular garbage bins, however, in that the molecules they carry can be taken up by other cells. Thus, exosomes transfer biological information to neighboring cells and through this cell-to-cell communication are involved not only in physiological functions such as cell-to-cell communication, but also in the pathogenesis of some diseases, including tumors and neurodegenerative conditions. Our increasing understanding of why cells release exosomes and their role in intercellular communication has revealed the very complex and sophisticated contribution of exosomes to health and disease. The aim of this review is to reveal the emerging roles of exosomes in normal and pathological conditions and describe the controversial biological role of exosomes, as it is now understood, in carcinogenesis. We also summarize what is known about exosome biogenesis, composition, functions, and pathways and discuss the potential clinical applications of exosomes, especially as biomarkers and novel therapeutic agents.
Keywords: biomarkers; exosome-based therapeutics; intercellular communication; non-coding RNAs; tumor-derived exosomes.