Seminars in Immunopathology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 395–408

Bacterial outer membrane vesicles in disease and preventive medicine



Gram-negative bacteria have the ability to produce outer membrane-derived vesicles (OMVs) that are released into the extracellular milieu. Even though this intriguing phenomenon is well-known since many years, various aspects of bacterial OMVs are not fully described and are still in the process of being characterized in detail. One major reason for this is that depending on the bacterial species and its respective ecological niche, OMVs exhibit an enormous functional diversity. Research of the past years has clearly shown that OMVs of many pathogenic bacteria contribute to the virulence potential by enriching virulence factors and delivering them over long distances, superseding direct bacterial contact with their host. The subsequent interaction of OMVs with the host can occur at different levels regarding the type of immune response or the target cell type and may lead to different outcomes ranging from non-immunogenic activation or a pro-inflammatory response to cytotoxicity. In contrast to being virulence factors, OMVs are used for vaccination purposes in the combat against bacterial pathogens, and recent research thus is focused on to indirectly aim these versatile bacterial weapons against themselves.


Cytotoxicity Immunomodulatory Outer membrane vesicles Pro-inflammatory response Vaccine 







Major histocompatibility complex


Outer membrane vesicle(s)


Type III or IV secretion system


Tumor necrosis factor-α


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


Macrophage chemoattractant protein-1




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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Can M. Ünal
    • 1
  • Viveka Schaar
    • 1
  • Kristian Riesbeck
    • 1
  1. 1.Medical Microbiology, Department of Laboratory Medicine Malmö, Skåne University HospitalLund UniversityMalmöSweden

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