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Exosome Functions in Infectious Diseases and Potential for Development of Vaccine or Therapy Platforms

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Exosomes have recently been classified as the newest family members of 'bioactive vesicles' that function to promote intercellular communication. These microvesicles originate from the late endosomes and are released into the extracellular milieu through multivesicular body (MVB) exocytosis. Secreted exosomes ...

Exosomes have recently been classified as the newest family members of 'bioactive vesicles' that function to promote intercellular communication. These microvesicles originate from the late endosomes and are released into the extracellular milieu through multivesicular body (MVB) exocytosis. Secreted exosomes can be internalized by recipient cells through endocytosis where the release of exosomal contents can trigger a variety of responses in the target cells.

Exosomes have garnered a huge amount of interest in recent years as their critical functions in a variety of human diseases have also been demonstrated. Many groundbreaking studies of exosomal functions have been performed in cancer and infectious disease fields of study, revealing the importance and also the fascinating complexity of exosomal packaging, targeting, and functions. Selective packaging of exosomes with bacterial or viral components during infection, exosomal modulation of the immune response and regulation of pathogen spread, and effects of exosomes on the degree of pathogenesis have all been reported. Depending on the type of infection (and possibly their cellular origin), exosomes play a dual role with respect to their effect on disease progression. In some cases, exosomes have been shown to decrease host susceptibility to infection. For instance, dendritic cell-derived exosomes provide protective immunity against toxoplasmosis or pneumococcal infection. Conversely, in some other cases, exosomes aid the spread of infection and assist the pathogens to avoid the host immune system. For instance, hepatitis C-infected cells effectively utilize exosomes containing viral genomic RNA to infect other cells while avoiding host innate or acquired immune responses.

We believe it is extremely timely to establish this Frontiers Research Topic to organize recent findings and current perspectives on the mechanisms by which exosomes impact the course of pathogenesis during different types of infection and how this knowledge can inform the utility of exosomes for preventative or therapeutic purposes. We welcome contributions from exosome investigators who work on various facets of infectious disease biology such as immunology, immunopathology, bacteriology, virology, parasitology, mycology, and others whose recent work provides new mechanistic insights into exosomal role in infectious diseases. We encourage contributors to also share their perspectives on future priorities and directions of this fast-moving field, and address the broader implications of their mechanistic findings, including how exosomes may serve as novel vehicles for prevention or therapy in their respective fields of study.


Keywords: exosome, infectious diseases, therapeutics, vaccines, pathogens, virus, bacteria, fungi, parasites


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