Host-derived extracellular vesicles for antimicrobial defense.

Brakhage AA, Zimmermann AK, Rivieccio F, Visser C, Blango MG (2021) Host-derived extracellular vesicles for antimicrobial defense. microLife 2, uqab003. (Review)


Extracellular vesicles are of increasing importance in the clinic, as diagnostics for complex diseases and as potential delivery systems for therapeutics. Over the past several decades, extracellular vesicles have emerged as a widespread, conserved mechanism of intercellular and interkingdom communication. The ubiquitous distribution of extracellular vesicles across life offers at least two compelling opportunities: first a path forward in the design of targeted antimicrobial delivery systems; and second, a new way to view host pathogenesis during infection. Both avenues of research are well underway. In particular, preliminary studies showing that plant and human host-derived extracellular vesicles can deliver natural antimicrobial cargos to invading fungal and bacterial pathogens are captivating. Further, modification of host extracellular vesicle populations may ultimately lead to enhanced killing and serve as a starting point for the development of more advanced therapeutic options, especially against difficult to treat pathogens. Despite the rapid pace of growth surrounding extracellular vesicle biology, many questions remain unanswered. For example, the heterogeneity of vesicle populations continues to be a confounding factor in ascribing clear functions to a vesicular subset, and the molecular cargos responsible for specific antimicrobial actions of extracellular vesicles during infection remain especially poorly described. In this short review, we will summarize the current state of affairs surrounding the antimicrobial function, and potential, of host-derived extracellular vesicles.


Matthew Blango
Axel A. Brakhage
Flora Rivieccio
Corissa Visser
Ann-Kathrin Zimmermann


doi: 10.1093/femsml/uqab003