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J Extracell Vesicles. 2015 May 14;4:27066. doi: 10.3402/jev.v4.27066. eCollection 2015.

Biological properties of extracellular vesicles and their physiological functions.

Author information

  • 1Unidad de Investigación, Hospital Sta Cristina, Instituto de Investigaciones Sanitarias Princesa (IIS-IP), Madrid, Spain.
  • 2Departamento de Biología Molecular, UAM, Madrid, Spain;;
  • 3Extracellular Vesicle Research, Division of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
  • 4Division of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland;
  • 5Departamento de Biología Molecular, UAM, Madrid, Spain.
  • 6Laboratory for Molecular Biology and Nanobiotechnology, National Institute of Chemistry, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
  • 7IVECAT Group - "Germans Trias i Pujol" Research Institute, Badalona, Spain.
  • 8Nephrology Service - "Germans Trias i Pujol" University Hospital, Badalona, Spain.
  • 9Department of Genetics, Cell- and Immunobiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary.
  • 10Biological Research Centre, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Szeged, Hungary.
  • 11Faculty of Dentistry, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary.
  • 12Metabolomics Unit, CIC bioGUNE, CIBERehd, Bizkaia Technology Park, Derio, Spain.
  • 13Department of Experimental Biomedicine and Clinical Neuroscience, Human Anatomy Section, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.
  • 14Euro-Mediterranean Institute of Science and Technology, Palermo, Italy.
  • 15Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.
  • 16Expression Regulation in Cancer, Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of the University of Porto (IPATIMUP), Porto, Portugal.
  • 17Research Unit in Biomedicine and Translational Oncology, Vall Hebron Institute of Research and Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
  • 18IBMC - Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.
  • 19Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.
  • 20Anti-Tumour Drugs Section, Department of Therapeutic Research and Medicines Evaluation, National Institute of Health (ISS), Rome, Italy.
  • 21IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science, Bilbao, Spain.
  • 22Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA.
  • 23Institute for Transfusion Medicine, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.
  • 24Spinal Cord Injury & Tissue Regeneration Center Salzburg (SCI-TReCS), Paracelsus Medical University (PMU), Salzburg, Austria.
  • 25Department of Blood Group Serology and Transfusion Medicine, Universitätsklinikum, Salzburger Landeskliniken GesmbH (SALK), Salzburg, Austria.
  • 26Department of Neurosurgery, University of Colorado Denver, CO, USA.
  • 27Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Thorlab-Therapeutic Oligonucleotide Research Lab, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey.
  • 28Department of Biological Sciences, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.
  • 29Department of Clinical Biochemistry and Pharmacology, Odense University Hospital, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark.
  • 30Analytical Protein Chemistry, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Immunology & Genetics, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • 31Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research, Department of Radiation Oncology and Experimental Cancer Research, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium.
  • 32Bood Cell Research Group, Department of Medical Biochemistry, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
  • 33Department of Immunochemistry and Glycobiology, Institute for the Application of Nuclear Energy, INEP, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia.
  • 34Laboratory of Clinical Biophysics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
  • 35Molecular Cell Biology and Focus Program Translational Neurosciences, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany.
  • 36Research and Cell Services, Finnish Red Cross Blood Service, Helsinki, Finland.
  • 37Krefting Research Centre, Institute of Medicine at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
  • 38Department of Physiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary.
  • 39Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, Riga, Latvia.
  • 40Institute of Chemistry and Bioanalytics, School of Life Sciences, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, Muttenz, Switzerland.
  • 41Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital - The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
  • 42National Institute of Chemistry, Laboratory of Biotechnology, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
  • 43EN→FIST Centre of Excellence, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
  • 44Departamento de Biología Celular y Parasitologia, Facultat de Farmacia, Universitat de Valencia, Valencia, Spain.
  • 45Department of Vascular Biology and Inflammation, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares, Madrid, Spain.
  • 46Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and Hospital Infection ControlMedical Center - University of Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.
  • 47Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
  • 48Institute of Biotechnology, (Viikinkaari 1), University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
  • 49School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences & Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
  • 50Department of Pathology and Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.
  • 51ISGlobal, Barcelona Ctr. Int. Health Res. (CRESIB), Hospital Clínic - Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
  • 52Institució Catalana de Recerca I Estudis Avançats, Barcelona, Spain.
  • 53Departament de Ciències Bàsiques, Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, and Institut de Recerca Biomèdica de Bellvitge, Barcelona, Spain.
  • 54Department of Biotechnology Engineering, ORT Braude College, Karmiel, Israel.
  • 55Servicio de Inmunología, Hospital de la Princesa, Instituto de Investigaciones Sanitarias Princesa (IIS-IP), Madrid, Spain.
  • 56Departmnet of Molecular Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark.
  • 57Cancer Drug Resistance Group, Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of the University of Porto (IPATIMUP), Porto, Portugal.
  • 58Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Porto (FFUP), Porto, Portugal.


In the past decade, extracellular vesicles (EVs) have been recognized as potent vehicles of intercellular communication, both in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. This is due to their capacity to transfer proteins, lipids and nucleic acids, thereby influencing various physiological and pathological functions of both recipient and parent cells. While intensive investigation has targeted the role of EVs in different pathological processes, for example, in cancer and autoimmune diseases, the EV-mediated maintenance of homeostasis and the regulation of physiological functions have remained less explored. Here, we provide a comprehensive overview of the current understanding of the physiological roles of EVs, which has been written by crowd-sourcing, drawing on the unique EV expertise of academia-based scientists, clinicians and industry based in 27 European countries, the United States and Australia. This review is intended to be of relevance to both researchers already working on EV biology and to newcomers who will encounter this universal cell biological system. Therefore, here we address the molecular contents and functions of EVs in various tissues and body fluids from cell systems to organs. We also review the physiological mechanisms of EVs in bacteria, lower eukaryotes and plants to highlight the functional uniformity of this emerging communication system.


eukaryote; exosome; extracellular vesicle; microparticle; microvesicle; physiology; prokaryote

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