Extracellular vesicles — The next frontier in endocrinology

Anasuya Das Gupta, Natalia Krawczynska, Erik R. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Extracellular vesicles (EVs), including exosomes, are emerging as important carriers of signals in normal and pathological physiology. As EVs are a long-range communication or signaling modality—just like hormones are—the field of endocrinology is uniquely poised to offer insight into their functional biology and regulation. EVs are membrane-bound particles secreted by many different cell types and can have local or systemic effects, being transported in body fluids. They express transmembrane proteins, some of which are shared between EVs and some being specific to the tissue of origin, that can interact with target cells directly (much like hormones can). They also contain cargo within them that includes DNA, RNA, miRNA, and various metabolites. They can fuse with target cells to empty their cargo and alter their target cell physiology in this way also. Similar to the endocrine system, the EV system is likely to be under homeostatic control, making the regulation of their biogenesis and secretion important aspects to study. In this review, we briefly highlight select examples of how EVs are implicated in normal physiology and disease states. We also discuss what is known about their biogenesis and regulation of secretion. We hope that this paper inspires the endocrinology field to use our collective expertise to explore these new multimodal “hormones”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberbqab133
JournalEndocrinology (United States)
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Exosome
  • Extracellular vesicle
  • General endocrinology
  • Intercellular communication
  • Physiology
  • Regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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