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Elife. 2016 Sep 22;5. pii: e17180. doi: 10.7554/eLife.17180.

Tetherin is an exosomal tether.

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University of Cambridge, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Division of Bioinformatics and Chemical Genomics, Department of System Chemotherapy and Molecular Sciences, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.
Chemical Genomics Research Group, RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science, Wako, Japan.
School of Biochemistry, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.


Exosomes are extracellular vesicles that are released when endosomes fuse with the plasma membrane. They have been implicated in various functions in both health and disease, including intercellular communication, antigen presentation, prion transmission, and tumour cell metastasis. Here we show that inactivating the vacuolar ATPase in HeLa cells causes a dramatic increase in the production of exosomes, which display endocytosed tracers, cholesterol, and CD63. The exosomes remain clustered on the cell surface, similar to retroviruses, which are attached to the plasma membrane by tetherin. To determine whether tetherin also attaches exosomes, we knocked it out and found a 4-fold reduction in plasma membrane-associated exosomes, with a concomitant increase in exosomes discharged into the medium. This phenotype could be rescued by wild-type tetherin but not tetherin lacking its GPI anchor. We propose that tetherin may play a key role in exosome fate, determining whether they participate in long-range or short-range interactions.


V-ATPase; cell biology; exosomes; human; tetherin

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