Therapeutic perspectives of extracellular vesicles and extracellular microRNAs in atherosclerosis

Curr Top Membr. 2021;87:255-277. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctm.2021.08.005. Epub 2021 Oct 12.


Extracellular signaling molecules, such as growth factors, cytokines, and hormones, regulate cell behaviors and fate through endocrine, paracrine, and autocrine actions and play essential roles in maintaining tissue homeostasis. MicroRNAs, an important class of posttranscriptional modulators, could stably present in extracellular space and body fluids and participate in intercellular communication in health and diseases. Indeed, recent studies demonstrated that microRNAs could be secreted through vesicular and non-vesicular routes, transported in body fluids, and then transmitted to recipient cells to regulate target gene expression and signaling events. Over the past decade, a great deal of effort has been made to investigate the functional roles of extracellular vesicles and extracellular microRNAs in pathological conditions. Emerging evidence suggests that altered levels of extracellular vesicles and extracellular microRNAs in body fluids, as part of the cellular responses to atherogenic factors, are associated with the development of atherosclerosis. This review article provides a brief overview of extracellular vesicles and perspectives of their applications as therapeutic tools for cardiovascular pathologies. In addition, we highlight the role of extracellular microRNAs in atherogenesis and offer a summary of circulating microRNAs in liquid biopsies associated with atherosclerosis.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Exosomes; Extracellular microRNAs; Extracellular vesicles; Inflammation; Microvesicles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis* / genetics
  • Cell Communication
  • Extracellular Vesicles*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • Signal Transduction


  • MicroRNAs