The how and why of exocytic vesicles


Tibor J. Greenwalt, MD, Hoxworth Blood Center, 3130 Highland Avenue, Cincinnati OH 45267-0055; e-mail:


The purpose of this review is to draw the attention of general readers to the importance of cellular exocytic vesiculation as a normal mechanism of development and subsequent adjustment to changing conditions, focusing on red cell (RBC) vesiculation. Recent studies have emphasized the possible role of these microparticles as diagnostic and investigative tools. RBCs lose membrane, both in vivo and during ex vivo storage, by the blebbing of microvesicles from the tips of echinocytic spicules. Microvesicles shed by RBCs in vivo are rapidly removed by the reticuloendothelial system. During storage, this loss of membrane contributes to the storage lesion and the accumulation of the microvesicles are believed to be thrombogenic and thus to be clinically important.