Extracellular vesicle‐associated RNA as a carrier of epigenetic information.

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Post-transcriptional regulation of messenger RNA (mRNA) metabolism and subcellular localization is of the utmost importance both during development and in cell differentiation. Besides carrying genetic information, mRNAs contain cis-acting signals (zip codes), usually present in their 5'- and 3'-untranslated regions (UTRs). By binding to these signals, trans-acting factors, such as RNA-binding proteins (RBPs), and/or non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), control mRNA localization, translation and stability. RBPs can also form complexes with non-coding RNAs of different sizes. The release of extracellular vesicles (EVs) is a conserved process that allows both normal and cancer cells to horizontally transfer molecules, and hence properties, to neighboring cells. By interacting with proteins that are specifically sorted to EVs, mRNAs as well as ncRNAs can be transferred from cell to cell. In this review, we discuss the mechanisms underlying the sorting to EVs of different classes of molecules, as well as the role of extracellular RNAs and the associated proteins in altering gene expression in the recipient cells. Importantly, if, on the one hand, RBPs play a critical role in transferring RNAs through EVs, RNA itself could, on the other hand, function as a carrier to transfer proteins (i.e., chromatin modifiers, and transcription factors) that, once transferred, can alter the cell's epigenome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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