Extracellular vesicles and viruses: Are they close relatives?

Extracellular vesicles (EVs) released by various cells are small phospholipid membrane-enclosed entities that can carry miRNA. They are now central to research in many fields of biology because they seem to constitute a new system of cell–cell communication. Physical and chemical characteristics of many EVs, as well as their biogenesis pathways, resemble those of retroviruses. Moreover, EVs generated by virus-infected cells can incorporate viral proteins and fragments of viral RNA, being thus indistinguishable from defective (noninfectious) retroviruses. EVs, depending on the proteins and genetic material incorporated in them, play a significant role in viral infection, both facilitating and suppressing it. Deciphering the mechanisms of EV-cell interactions may facilitate the design of EVs that inhibit viral infection and can be used as vehicles for targeted drug delivery."


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