In multicellular organisms, cellular components are constantly translocated within cells and are also transported exclusively between limited cells, regardless of their physical distance. Exosomes function as one of the key mediators of intercellular transportation. External vesicles were identified 50 years ago in plants and now reconsidered to be exosome-like vesicles. Meanwhile, a well-known exosomal component, tetraspanin CD9, regulates sperm–egg fusion in mammals. A number of Arabidopsis tetraspanins are also expressed in reproductive tissues at fertilization, and are localized at the plasma membrane of protoplasts. Moreover, CD9-containing structures (or ‘microexosomes’) are released from mouse eggs during their maturation and promote the sperm–egg fusion. This phenomenon implies that two types of shared-component intercellular carriers might be released from multiple types of plant and animal cells, which widely regulate biological phenomena. We herein highlight their discrete structures, formation processes, and functions.
- Intercellular transportation
- Membrane fusion