Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are membrane-bound vesicles released by most cells and are found in diverse biological fluids. The release of EVs provides a new mechanism for intercellular communication, allowing cells to transfer their functional cargoes to target cells. Glomerular diseases account for a large proportion of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) worldwide. In recent years, an increasing number of research groups have focused their effort on identifying the functional role of EVs in renal diseases. However, the involvement of EVs in the pathophysiology of glomerular diseases has not been comprehensively described and discussed. In this review, we first briefly introduce the characteristics of EVs. Then, we describe the involvement of EVs in the mechanisms underlying glomerular diseases, including immunological and fibrotic processes. We also discuss what functions EVs derived from different kidney cells have in glomerular diseases and how EVs exert their effects through different signaling pathways. Furthermore, we summarize recent advances in the knowledge of EV involvement in the pathogenesis of various glomerular diseases. Finally, we propose future research directions for identifying better management strategies for glomerular diseases.
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