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Nephrology (Carlton). 2013 Jan;18(1):1-10. doi: 10.1111/nep.12005.

Exosomes and the kidney: blaming the messenger.

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Department of Renal Medicine, Flinders Medical Centre, School of Medicine, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.


Exosomes are membrane-bound vesicles of endosomal origin, present in a wide range of biological fluids, including blood and urine. They range between 30 and 100 nm in diameter, and consist of a limiting lipid bilayer, transmembrane proteins and a hydrophilic core containing proteins, mRNAs and microRNAs (miRNA). Exosomes can act as extracellular vehicles by which cells communicate, through the delivery of their functional cargo to recipient cells, with many important biological, physiological and pathological implications. The exosome release pathway contributes towards protein secretion, antigen presentation, pathogen transfer and cancer progression. Exosomes and exosome-mediated signalling have been implicated in disease processes such as atherosclerosis, calcification and kidney diseases. Circulating levels of exosomes and extracellular vesicles can be influenced by the progression of renal disease. Advances in methods for purification and analysis of exosomes are leading to potential diagnostic and therapeutic avenues for kidney diseases. This review will focus on biophysical properties and biogenesis of exosomes, their pathophysiological roles and their potential as biomarkers and therapeutics in kidney diseases.

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