Protein glycosylation in extracellular vesicles: structural characterization and biological functions

Janaina Macedo-da-Silva, Verônica F. Santiago, Livia Rosa-Fernandes, Claudio R. F. Marinho, Giuseppe Palmisano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are lipid bilayer-enclosed particles involved in intercellular communication, delivery of biomolecules from donor to recipient cells, cellular disposal and homeostasis, potential biomarkers and drug carriers. The content of EVs includes DNA, lipids, metabolites, proteins, and microRNA, which have been studied in various diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, pregnancy, neurodegenerative, and cardiovascular disorders. EVs are enriched in glycoconjugates and exhibit specific glycosignatures. Protein glycosylation is a co- and post-translational modification (PTM) that plays an important role in the expression and function of exosomal proteins. N- and O-linked protein glycosylation has been mapped in exosomal proteins. The purpose of this review is to highlight the importance of glycosylation in EVs proteins. Initially, we describe the main PTMs in EVs with a focus on glycosylation. Then, we explore glycan-binding proteins describing the main findings of studies that investigated the glycosylation of EVs in cancer, pregnancy, infectious diseases, diabetes, mental disorders, and animal fluids. We have highlighted studies that have developed innovative methods for studying the content of EVs. In addition, we present works related to lipid glycosylation. We explored the content of studies deposited in public databases, such as Exocarta and Vesiclepedia. Finally, we discuss analytical methods for structural characterization of glycoconjugates and present an overview of the critical points of the study of glycosylation EVs, as well as perspectives in this field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-246
Number of pages21
JournalMolecular Immunology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Glycosylation
  • Glycoconjugates
  • Lectins
  • Glycomics
  • Glycoproteomics


Dive into the research topics of 'Protein glycosylation in extracellular vesicles: structural characterization and biological functions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this