Exosomes and other microvesicles in infection biology: organelles with unanticipated phenotypes.
The release of exosomes and other microvesicles by diverse prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and organisms was first appreciated early in the 20th century. The functional properties of these organelles, however, have only recently been the focus of rigorous investigation. In this review, we discuss the release of microvesicles of varying complexity by diverse microbial pathogens. This includes vesicle secretion by Gram-negative bacteria, eukaryotic parasites of the kinetoplast lineage and opportunistic fungal pathogens of both the ascomycetes and basidiomycetes lineages. We also discuss vesicle release from mammalian cells brought about as a result of infection with bacteria, viruses and prions. In addition, we review the evidence showing that in their specific microenvironments, release of these organelles from diverse pathogens contributes to pathogenesis. Germane to this and based upon recent findings with Leishmania, we propose a model whereby exosome release by an intracellular pathogen serves as a general mechanism for effector molecule delivery from eukaryotic pathogen to host cell cytosol. These new findings linking exosomes and other microvesicles to infection biology have important implications for understanding the immune response to infection and for the design of research strategies aimed at the development of novel therapeutics and vaccines. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.