Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are a heterogeneous collection of membrane-bound carriers with complex cargoes including proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids. While the release of EVs was previously thought to be only a mechanism to discard nonfunctional cellular components, increasing evidence implicates EVs as key players in intercellular and even interorganismal communication. EVs confer stability and can direct their cargoes to specific cell types. EV cargoes also appear to act in a combinatorial manner to communicate directives to other cells. This review focuses on recent findings and knowledge gaps in the area of EV biogenesis, release, and uptake. In addition, we highlight examples whereby EV cargoes control basic cellular functions, including motility and polarization, immune responses, and development, and contribute to diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration.
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