Extracellular vesicles in reproduction and pregnancy

Tahlia I. Smith, Ashley E. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are small, lipid-bound packages that are secreted by all cell types and have been implicated in many diseases, such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. Though limited, an exciting new area of EV research focuses on their role in the reproductive system and pregnancy. In males, EVs have been implicated in sperm production and maturation. In females, EVs play a vital role in maintaining reproductive organ homeostasis and pregnancy, including the regulation of folliculogenesis, ovulation, and embryo implantation. During the development and maintenance of a pregnancy, the placenta is the main form of communication between the mother and the developing fetus. To support the developing fetus, the placenta will act as numerous vital organs until birth, and release EVs into the maternal and fetal bloodstream. EVs play an important role in cell-to-cell communication and may mediate the pathophysiology of pregnancy-related disorders such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, preterm birth, and intrauterine growth restriction, and potentially serve as noninvasive biomarkers for these conditions. In addition, EVs may also mediate processes involved in both male and female infertility. Together, the EVs secreted by both the male and female reproductive tracts work to promote reproductive fertility and play vital roles in mediating maternal-fetal crosstalk and pregnancy maintenance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-317
Number of pages26
JournalExtracellular Vesicles and Circulating Nucleic Acids
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cell Biology

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