Tight control of intracellular signaling is essential for developmental processes such as cell differentiation, migration but also for maintaining tissue homeostasis. Disruption in the control of these signaling pathways can result in cell death (apoptosis), anergy or uncontrolled cell proliferation and growth leading to cancer. In multicellular organisms, timely termination of signaling is thus equally important as initiation. Known pathways for downregulating membrane receptor-mediated signaling are mediated via specialized endosomal organelles known as lysosomes and proteosomes that degrade such proteins in the cytoplasm. An alternative pathway for attenuating receptor-mediated signaling was recently discovered independently by the group of M. Caplan and our own group.1,2 It appears that apart from the classical protein degradation machineries, the release of signaling proteins also effectively restricts signaling of at least two major signal transduction routes; the canonical Wnt/β-catenin and NFκB pathways. Expelling proteins from the cell, rather than coordinated degradation in lysosomes may involve defined protein modifications, such as ubiquitination, myristyolation, and/or palmitoylation, but little experimental data are currently available. Although the secretion of proteins via exosomes starts by accumulation within multivesicular bodies (MVBs), a key distinction with degredatory MVBs is that exosome-producing MVBs seem to preferentially fuse with the plasmamembrane (Fig. 1). Here we discuss the latest developments in the biology of exosomes and their unexpected effect on intracellular signal transduction.
- Journal Article