Purpose of review: Extracellular microRNAs (miRNAs) are uniquely stable in plasma, and the levels of specific circulating miRNAs can differ with disease. Extracellular miRNAs are associated with lipid-based carriers and lipid-free proteins. miRNAs can be transferred from cell-to-cell by lipid-based carriers and affect gene expression. This review summarizes recent studies that demonstrate the transfer of miRNA between cells and their potential role in intercellular communication.
Recent findings: Microvesicles, exosomes, apoptotic bodies, lipoproteins, and large microparticles contain miRNAs. Recent studies have demonstrated that miRNAs are transferred between dendritic cells, hepatocellular carcinoma cells, and adipocytes in lipid-based carriers. miRNAs are also transferred from T cells to antigen-presenting cells, from stem cells to endothelial cells and fibroblasts, from macrophages to breast cancer cells, and from epithelial cells to hepatocytes in lipid-based carriers. The cellular export of miRNAs in lipid-based carriers is regulated by the ceramide pathway, and the delivery of lipid-associated miRNAs to recipient cells is achieved by various routes, including endocytotic uptake, membrane-fusion, and scavenger receptors.
Summary: Cellular miRNAs are exported in and to lipid-based carriers (vesicles and lipoprotein particles) and transferred to recipient cells with gene expression changes as intercellular communication.