Abstract: ECM composition and architecture are tightly regulated for tissue homeostasis. Different disorders have been associated to alterations in the levels of proteins such as collagens, fibronectin (FN) or tenascin-C (TnC). TnC emerges as a key regulator of multiple inflammatory processes, both during physiological tissue repair as well as pathological conditions ranging from tumor progression to cardiovascular disease. Importantly, our current understanding as to how TnC and other non-collagen ECM components are secreted has remained elusive. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are small membrane-bound particles released to the extracellular space by most cell types, playing a key role in cell-cell communication. A broad range of cellular components can be transported by EVs (e.g. nucleic acids, lipids, signalling molecules and proteins). These cargoes can be transferred to target cells, potentially modulating their function. Recently, several extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins have been characterized as bona fide EV cargoes, exosomal secretion being particularly critical for TnC. EV-dependent ECM secretion might underpin diseases where ECM integrity is altered, establishing novel concepts in the field such as ECM nucleation over long distances, and highlighting novel opportunities for diagnostics and therapeutic intervention. Here, we review recent findings and standing questions on the molecular mechanisms governing EV-dependent ECM secretion and its potential relevance for disease, with a focus on TnC.
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