Ticket to a bubble ride: Cargo sorting into exosomes and extracellular vesicles

Biochim Biophys Acta Proteins Proteom. 2019 Dec;1867(12):140203. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2019.02.005. Epub 2019 Feb 26.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are released by cells into the extracellular milieu to facilitate intercellular communication in both physiological and pathological condition. EVs contain selective repertoires of proteins, RNAs, lipids and metabolites that moderate signalling pathways in the recipient cells. The enrichment of a particular set of proteins or RNAs within the EVs highlights the existence of specific sorting mechanisms that orchestrate the selective packaging of the cargo. The molecular machinery of cargo sorting has remained obscure over the years and functional studies are required to understand this complex mechanism. In this article, we offer a brief overview of the molecular mechanisms that are known to regulate sorting of various molecules into EVs. We also discuss how different pathways of biogenesis alter the exosomal cargo as well and the implications of the cellular state on the content of the EVs. Understanding the sorting of exosomal cargo could further be exploited in clinical settings for targeted drug delivery and to block disease progression.

Keywords: Cargo sorting; Extracellular vesicles; Post translational modifications; Ubiquitination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Protein Transport
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA / metabolism


  • Proteins
  • RNA