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Microvesicles: potential markers and mediators of endothelial dysfunction

Liu, Ming-Lina; Williams, Kevin Jona,b

Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity: April 2012 - Volume 19 - Issue 2 - p 121–127
doi: 10.1097/MED.0b013e32835057e9
LIPIDS: Edited by Annabelle Rodriguez

Purpose of review Microvesicles (also known as microparticles) are small membranous structures that are released from platelets and cells upon activation or during apoptosis. Microvesicles have been found in blood, urine, synovial fluid, extracellular spaces of solid organs, atherosclerotic plaques, tumors, and elsewhere. Here, we focus on new clinical and basic work that implicates microvesicles as markers and mediators of endothelial dysfunction and hence novel contributors to cardiovascular and other diseases.

Recent findings Advances in the detection of microvesicles and the use of cell type-specific markers to determine their origin have allowed studies that associated plasma concentrations of specific microvesicles with major types of endothelial dysfunction – namely, inappropriate or maladaptive vascular tone, leukocyte recruitment, and thrombosis. Recent investigations have highlighted microvesicular transport of key biologically active molecules besides tissue factor, such as ligands for pattern-recognition receptors, elements of the inflammasome, and morphogens. Microvesicles generated from human cells under different pathologic circumstances, for example, during cholesterol loading or exposure to endotoxin, carry different subsets of these molecules and thereby alter endothelial function through several distinct, well characterized molecular pathways.

Summary Clinical and basic studies indicate that microvesicles may be novel markers and mediators of endothelial dysfunction. This work has advanced our understanding of the development of cardiovascular and other diseases. Opportunities and obstacles to clinical applications are discussed.

aSection of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Department of Medicine

bCardiovascular Research Center, Department of Physiology, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence to Dr Ming-Lin Liu, Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes, & Metabolism, Temple University School of Medicine, 3500 North Broad Street, Medical Education and Research Building, Room 455, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA. Tel: +1 215 707 3387; fax: +1 215 707 3484; e-mail:

© 2012 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins