- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
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Extracellular vesicles (EV) are small plasma membrane-derived particles released into the extracellular space by virtually all cell types. Recently, EV have received increased interest because of their capability to carry nucleic acids, proteins, lipids and signaling molecules and to transfer their cargo into the target cells. Less attention has been paid to their role in modifying the composition of the extracellular matrix (ECM), either directly or indirectly via regulating the ability of target cells to synthesize or degrade matrix molecules. Based on recent results, EV can be considered one of the structural and functional components of the ECM that participate in matrix organization, regulation of cells within it, and in determining the physical properties of soft connective tissues, bone, cartilage and dentin. This review addresses the relevance of EV as specific modulators of the ECM, such as during the assembly and disassembly of the molecular network, signaling through the ECM and formation of niches suitable for tissue regeneration, inflammation and tumor progression. Finally, we assess the potential of these aspects of EV biology to translational medicine.