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Traffic. 2002 May;3(5):321-30.

The biogenesis and functions of exosomes.

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Department of Cell Biology, Institute of Biomembranes and Centre for Biomedical Genetics, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Exosomes are membrane vesicles with a diameter of 40-100 nm that are secreted by many cell types into the extracellular milieu. They correspond to the internal vesicles of an endosomal compartment, the multivesicular body and are released upon exocytic fusion of this organelle with the plasma membrane. Intracellularly, they are formed by inward budding of the endosomal membrane in a process that sequesters particular proteins and lipids. The unique composition of exosomes may confer specific functions on them upon secretion. Although their physiological role in vivo is far from being unraveled, it is apparent that they function in a multitude of processes, including intercellular communication during the immune response. Exosomes may have evolved early in the evolution of multicellular organisms and also seem to be important for tissue developmental processes.

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