Revisiting Extracellular RNA Release, Processing, and Function

Juan Pablo Tosar, Kenneth Witwer, Alfonso Cayota

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


It is assumed that RNAs enriched in extracellular samples were selected for release by their parental cells. However, recent descriptions of extracellular RNA (exRNA) biogenesis and their differential stabilities question this assumption, as they could produce identical outcomes. Here, we share our opinion about the importance of considering both selective and nonselective mechanisms for RNA release into the extracellular environment. In doing so, we provide new perspectives on RNA-mediated intercellular communication, including an analogy to communication through social media. We also argue that technical limitations have restricted the study of some of the most abundant exRNAs, both inside and outside extracellular vesicles (EVs). These RNAs may be better positioned to induce a response in recipient cells compared with low abundance miRNAs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-445
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in biochemical sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • RNA secretion
  • exosomes
  • extracellular RNAs
  • liquid biopsy
  • microvesicles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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