Imaging of surface microdomains on individual extracellular vesicles in 3-D

J Extracell Vesicles. 2022 Mar;11(3):e12191. doi: 10.1002/jev2.12191.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are secreted from all cell types and are intimately involved in tissue homeostasis. They are being explored as vaccine and gene therapy platforms, as well as potential biomarkers. As their size is below the diffraction limit of light microscopy, direct visualizations have been daunting and single-particle studies under physiological conditions have been hampered. Here, direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM) was employed to visualize EVs in three-dimensions and to localize molecule clusters such as the tetraspanins CD81 and CD9 on the surface of individual EVs. These studies demonstrate the existence of membrane microdomains on EVs. These were confirmed by Cryo-EM. Individual particle visualization provided insights into the heterogeneity, structure, and complexity of EVs not previously appreciated.

Keywords: biotechnology; dSTORM; exosome; extracellular vesicle; microvesicle; nanodomains; super-resolution microscopy; tetraspanin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Extracellular Vesicles* / chemistry
  • Microscopy
  • Tetraspanins / analysis


  • Biomarkers
  • Tetraspanins