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Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2013 Sep 6;3:49. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2013.00049. eCollection 2013.

Microvesicles and intercellular communication in the context of parasitism.

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Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston and Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA. Natasha.Barteneva@


There is a rapidly growing body of evidence that production of microvesicles (MVs) is a universal feature of cellular life. MVs can incorporate microRNA (miRNA), mRNA, mtDNA, DNA and retrotransposons, camouflage viruses/viral components from immune surveillance, and transfer cargo between cells. These properties make MVs an essential player in intercellular communication. Increasing evidence supports the notion that MVs can also act as long-distance vehicles for RNA molecules and participate in metabolic synchronization and reprogramming eukaryotic cells including stem and germinal cells. MV ability to carry on DNA and their general distribution makes them attractive candidates for horizontal gene transfer, particularly between multi-cellular organisms and their parasites; this suggests important implications for the co-evolution of parasites and their hosts. In this review, we provide current understanding of the roles played by MVs in intracellular pathogens and parasitic infections. We also discuss the possible role of MVs in co-infection and host shifting.


Plasmodium; co-infection; exosomes; horizontal gene transfer; metabolism synchronization; miRNA; microvesicles; parasite

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