Exosomes: A cell-to-cell transit system in the human body with pleiotropic functions.
Exosomes are extracellular vesicles generated by all cells and they carry nucleic acids, proteins, lipids, and metabolites. They are mediators of near and long-distance intercellular communication in health and disease and affect various aspects of cell biology.
The study of extracellular vesicles (EVs) has the potential to identify unknown cellular and molecular mechanisms in intercellular communication and in organ homeostasis and disease. Exosomes, with an average diameter of ~100 nanometers, are a subset of EVs. The biogenesis of exosomes involves their origin in endosomes, and subsequent interactions with other intracellular vesicles and organelles generate the final content of the exosomes. Their diverse constituents include nucleic acids, proteins, lipids, amino acids, and metabolites, which can reflect their cell of origin. In various diseases, exosomes offer a window into altered cellular or tissue states, and their detection in biological fluids potentially offers a multicomponent diagnostic readout. The efficient exchange of cellular components through exosomes can inform their applied use in designing exosome-based therapeutics.