Since the discovery that extracellular vesicles (EVs) mediate intercellular communication, there is an exponential increase in the interest on EVs, especially in pathological settings. EVs are membranous vesicles that are secreted by various cell types and the release of EVs is conserved in every prokaryotic and eukaryotic organism tested to date. These vesicles were initially thought to be garbage disposal vehicles and subsequent studies over the past 4 decades have attributed several functional roles to EVs, some of which are critical for homeostasis. The molecular cargo of nucleic acids, proteins, lipids and metabolites packaged in EVs often mirror the host cells phenotypic status. EVs can be taken up by recipient cells and upon uptake, EVs through its molecular cargo, can induce a cascade of signal transduction events in recipient cells. EVs are categorised into several subtypes depending on their biogenesis and secretion. Due to several subtypes, differing sizes within a subtype and varying cargo, EVs are heterogenous in nature and the biophysical and biochemical properties of EVs often overlap between EV subtypes. Hence, it is important to be cautious when selecting the method of EV isolation and characterisation. This chapter provides a brief introduction to EVs and their subtypes.
Keywords: Apoptotic bodies; Ectosomes; Exosomes; Extracellular vesicles; Microvesicles.