Exosomes (EXs) and extracellular microvesicles (EMVs) represent a diverse assortment of plasma membrane-derived nanovesicles, 30–1000 nm in diameter, released by all cell lineages of the central nervous system (CNS). They are examples of a very active and dynamic form of extracellular communication and the conveyance of biological information transfer essential to maintain homeostatic neurological functions and contain complex molecular cargoes representative of the cytoplasm of their cells of origin. These molecular cargoes include various mixtures of proteins, lipids, proteolipids, cytokines, chemokines, carbohydrates, microRNAs (miRNA) and messenger RNAs (mRNA) and other components, including end-stage neurotoxic and pathogenic metabolic products, such as amyloid beta (Aβ) peptides. Brain microglia, for example, respond to both acute CNS injuries and degenerative diseases with complex reactions via the induction of a pro-inflammatory phenotype, and secrete EXs and EMVs enriched in selective pathogenic microRNAs (miRNAs) such as miRNA-34a, miRNA-125b, miRNA-146a, miRNA-155, and others that are known to promote neuro-inflammation, induce complement activation, disrupt innate–immune signaling and deregulate the expression of neuron-specific phosphoproteins involved in neurotropism and synaptic signaling. This communication will review our current understanding of the trafficking of miRNA-containing EXs and EMVs from astrocytes and “activated pro-inflammatory” microglia to target neurons in neurodegenerative diseases with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease wherever possible.
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