Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Annual Review of Animal Biosciences 7 (2019), pp 245–62.

DOI: 10.1146020518-115300


Copyright © 2019 by Annual Reviews. Used by permission.


Exosomes are natural nanoparticles that play an important role in cell-to-cell communication. Communication is achieved through the transfer of cargos, such as microRNAs, from donor to recipient cells and binding of exosomes to cell surface receptors. Exosomes and their cargos are also obtained from dietary sources, such as milk. Exosome and cell glycoproteins are crucial for intestinal uptake. A large fraction of milk exosomes accumulates in the brain, whereas the tissue distribution of microRNA cargos varies among distinct species of microRNA. The fraction of milk exosomes that escapes absorption elicits changes in microbial communities in the gut. Dietary depletion of exosomes and their cargos causes a loss of circulating microRNAs and elicits phenotypes such as loss of cognitive performance, increase in purine metabolites, loss of fecundity, and changes in the immune response. Milk exosomes meet the definition of bioactive food compounds.