Extracellular vesicles carry Aß and tau that may spread pathogenic proteins across the brain, promote Aß
aggregation and accelerate amyloid plaque formation, and may also serve as biomarkers of Alzheimer's
disease. EVs from blood, cerebral spinal fluid, and cell culture contain Aß and tau and are proposed to be
central mediators in the progression of Alzheimer's disease pathology. Conversely, EVs may have
benefits in Alzheimer's disease: neuron-derived EVs promote uptake of Aß by microglia and reduce
extracellular levels of Aß in cultured cells. Up-regulation of EV secretion - induced by neutral
sphingomyelinase knockdown - efficiently reduced extracellular levels of Aß in a co-culture of neuronal
and microglial cells. The role of EVs in Alzheimer's disease is currently a major mystery of the disease
mechanism. We will study how neuronal EV shedding is modulated by factors relevant to Alzheimer's
disease, including age, oxidative stress, and proteostasis and neuron-glia dysfunction. Virtually all cell
types in the brain release EVs including stem cells, neurons, astrocytes, microglia, and oligodendrocytes.
EVs may be used by cells as a form of intercellular communication and may thereby mediate a broad
range of physiological and pathological processes. Cells package beneficial or toxic EV cargo to promote
health or disease. In the mammalian nervous system, EVs have neuroprotective roles against oxidative
stress, cellular stress, and ischemia; and may also promote myelination in aging. In the brain, EVs may
carry aggregation-prone cargo and contribute to the spread of Alzheimer's diseases. Understanding the
fundamental biology of an EV-based signaling in vivo is essential for elaborating their physiological and
pathological functions in Alzheimer's disease. A basic molecular dissection is critical for developing
novel therapeutic applications.
biology has been thwarted by a
A big problem, however, is that advancing mechanistic dissection of EV
lack of tractable experimental animal systems. We propose to take
advantage of the powerful and unparalleled cell biological and molecular approaches that can be applied
in the nematode C. elegans as a springboard to study the fundamental biology of neuronal EVs in vivo.
We developed the first system to study neuronal EV biogenesis, shedding, targeting and signaling in living
animals, and this strategy will overcome limitations of cell-culture based studies. This innovative approach
will be used to tackle major challenges in the EV field . Our goals are to: 1) Determine the impact of
neuronal activity, age and stress on neuronal EV shedding and signaling; 2) Decipher molecular
mechanisms that control neuronal EV shedding; and 3) Determine the functions of neuronal EVs in long-
distance intercellular communication and in neuron-glia communication. Our work should inform the
fundamental biology of neuronal EVs relevant to both healthy brain aging and Alzheimer's disease and
identify therapeutic targets to combat diseases like Alzheimer's associated with abnormal EV signaling.