The versatile role of exosomes in human retroviral infections: from immunopathogenesis to clinical application

Cell Biosci. 2021 Jan 15;11(1):19. doi: 10.1186/s13578-021-00537-0.


Eukaryotic cells produce extracellular vesicles (EVs) mediating intercellular communication. These vesicles encompass many bio-molecules such as proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids that are transported between cells and regulate pathophysiological actions in the recipient cell. Exosomes originate from multivesicular bodies inside cells and microvesicles shed from the plasma membrane and participate in various pathological conditions. Retroviruses such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus -type 1 (HIV-1) and Human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV)-1 engage exosomes for spreading and infection. Exosomes from virus-infected cells transfer viral components such as miRNAs and proteins that promote infection and inflammation. Additionally, these exosomes deliver virus receptors to target cells that make them susceptible to virus entry. HIV-1 infected cells release exosomes that contribute to the pathogenesis including neurological disorders and malignancy. Exosomes can also potentially carry out as a modern approach for the development of HIV-1 and HTLV-1 vaccines. Furthermore, as exosomes are present in most biological fluids, they hold the supreme capacity for clinical usage in the early diagnosis and prognosis of viral infection and associated diseases. Our current knowledge of exosomes' role from virus-infected cells may provide an avenue for efficient retroviruses associated with disease prevention. However, the exact mechanism involved in retroviruses infection/ inflammation remains elusive and related exosomes research will shed light on the mechanisms of pathogenesis.

Keywords: Exosomes; Extracellular vesicles; HIV-1; HTLV-1; Retroviruses.

Publication types

  • Review