Exosomes maintain cellular homeostasis by excreting harmful DNA from cells

Nat Commun. 2017 May 16;8:15287. doi: 10.1038/ncomms15287.


Emerging evidence is revealing that exosomes contribute to many aspects of physiology and disease through intercellular communication. However, the biological roles of exosome secretion in exosome-secreting cells have remained largely unexplored. Here we show that exosome secretion plays a crucial role in maintaining cellular homeostasis in exosome-secreting cells. The inhibition of exosome secretion results in the accumulation of nuclear DNA in the cytoplasm, thereby causing the activation of cytoplasmic DNA sensing machinery. This event provokes the innate immune response, leading to reactive oxygen species (ROS)-dependent DNA damage response and thus induce senescence-like cell-cycle arrest or apoptosis in normal human cells. These results, in conjunction with observations that exosomes contain various lengths of chromosomal DNA fragments, indicate that exosome secretion maintains cellular homeostasis by removing harmful cytoplasmic DNA from cells. Together, these findings enhance our understanding of exosome biology, and provide valuable new insights into the control of cellular homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytoplasm / genetics
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • DNA