European Biophysics Journal

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 323–332

The role of exosomes in the processing of proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases

  • Laura J. Vella
  • Robyn A. Sharples
  • Rebecca M. Nisbet
  • Roberto Cappai
  • Andrew F. Hill


Exosomes are small membranous vesicles secreted by a number of cell types and can be isolated from conditioned cell media or bodily fluids such as urine and plasma. Exosome biogenesis involves the inward budding of multivesicular bodies (MVB) to form intraluminal vesicles (ILV). When fused with the plasma membrane, the MVB releases the vesicles into the extracellular environment as exosomes. Proposed functions of these vesicles include roles in cell–cell signalling, removal of unwanted proteins, and the transfer of pathogens between cells, such as HIV-1. Another such pathogen which exploits this pathway is the prion, the infectious particle responsible for the transmissible neurodegenerative diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) of humans or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) of cattle. Interestingly, this work is mirrored by studies on another protein involved in neurodegenerative disease, the amyloid precursor protein (APP) which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Recent work has found APP proteolytic fragments in association with exosomes, suggesting a common pathway previously unknown for proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases. This review will be discussing the current literature regarding the role of exosomes in secretion of the proteins, PrP and APP, and the subsequent implications for neurodegenerative disease.


Prion protein PrPC PrPSc Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy Amyloid precursor protein Alzheimer’s disease Exosomes 


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Copyright information

© EBSA 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura J. Vella
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Robyn A. Sharples
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rebecca M. Nisbet
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Roberto Cappai
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Andrew F. Hill
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular BiologyUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology InstituteUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of PathologyUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Mental Health Research Institute of VictoriaParkvilleAustralia

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