DNA in extracellular vesicles : from evolution to its current application in health and disease

Extracellular vesicle (EV) secretion is a highly conserved evolutionary trait in all organisms in the three domains of life. The packaging and release of EVs appears to be a bulk-flow process which takes place mainly under extreme conditions. EVs participate in horizontal gene transfer, which supports the survival of prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes. In higher eukaryotes, almost all cells secrete a heterogeneous population of EVs loaded with various biomolecules. EV secretion is typically higher in cancer microenvironments, promoting tumor progression and metastasis. EVs are now recognized as additional mediators of autocrine and paracrine communication in health and disease. In this context, proteins and RNAs have been studied the most, but extracellular vesicle DNA (EV-DNA) has started to gain in importance in the last few years. In this review, we summarize new findings related to the loading mechanism(s), localization, and post-shedding function of EV-DNA. We also discuss the feasibility of using EV-DNA as a biomarker when performing a liquid biopsy, at the same time emphasizing the lack of data from clinical trials in this regard. Finally, we outline the potential of EV-DNA uptake and its interaction with the host genome as a promising tool for understanding the mechanisms of cancer evolution.


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